What’s wrong with my blog?
That’s a very frustrating question that many bloggers ask.
You’re passionate about your topic and you provide great advice to solve reader’s problems. You wrap up your posts with interesting questions, inviting readers to share their opinions in the comments. You offer clear calls to action.
Unfortunately, no one seems to be listening.
Post after post reveals no more than a handful of comments (and half of those are your own replies). Your subscriber numbers have flatlined. And forget fan mail, that showing up seems as likely as finding a tall glass of water in the desert.
I hate to be the one to tell you, but the problem might not be your blog. The problem might be you.
Why bloggers need good people skills
Considering you don’t share the same room, or perhaps even the same continent with your readers, the vital need for interpersonal skills on your blog may be a bit puzzling.
But as Jon Morrow points out, “Those traffic figures in your analytics account aren’t just numbers, they’re people.”
And people with high social intelligence are magnetic.
Have you ever noticed how popular bloggers have a knack for writing about their readers’ hopes and frustrations? Popular blogs sound like they were written just for you. The comments are filled with statements like, “This is just what I needed to hear,” or “Wow, I could have written those same words.”
Successful bloggers build the confidence of their readers, not just themselves. They create rapport by making readers feel valued, one person at a time.
Good writing alone won’t drive people to subscribe, leave thoughtful comments, or share your material. Social intelligence is the currency of the blogosphere. In fact, it’s the key to good business too.
And the best part? It can be learned.
Sizing up your social IQ
In his book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success, Karl Albrecht highlights the five dimensions of social intelligence. The trick is understanding how to translate those often nonverbal dynamics into the text-based world of blogging.
1. Situational Awareness Having situational awareness means you understand the social context of situations and respond appropriately. People missing this skill take phone calls in the middle of meetings or blast their car stereo while returning home late at night. They’re not purposely rude, just oblivious to the wants (and reactions) of others. In the online world, this is the equivalent of committing the blogging sin of boorishness.
Need help developing better situational awareness? Check out LaVonne Ellis and David Crandall’s Customer Love e-book.
2. Presence Presence is the ability to project confidence and self-respect, and as a blogger, it derives primarily from your voice. If you’re used to writing term papers or corporate vision statements, finding your writing voice can be tricky. When you get it right, it’s an extremely powerful way to build connections with readers.
3. Authenticity The blogosphere likes to talk about the importance of authenticity, but what is it really? Albrecht calls it the “opposite of being phony.” Seth Godin describes authenticity as “doing what you promise, not being who you are.” Many associate authenticity with revealing the person behind the ideas, like Corbett Barr’s blog post “33 Things I Never Told You.” For bloggers, authenticity is probably somewhere in between ideology and action. The point is to be genuine: express opinions you believe in, endorse products you use, and network with people you actually like.
4. Clarity How well you present ideas and influence others comes, in part, from your clarity. It’s a balance between knowing enough to be specific and having enough distance to speak directly. The classic advice is to explain a topic like you were speaking to your grandmother. This is particularly relevant for bloggers, who often assume their audience is social media savvy instead of the “average Grandma Minnie.”
5. Empathy Empathy involves understanding the experiences and motivations of another person. Looking for a topic that has viral potential? Want to invoke an emotional reaction to your post? Empathy is the cornerstone of social intelligence.
Creating the complete social intelligence package
The best way to improve your social IQ is to spend some quality time alone. After all, if you don’t understand your own motivations, how can you hope to predict the fears and desires of your readers?
You’ll be surprised how hard this is.
I recently left a 20-year career in science. As I was evaluating new career options, I wrote down all the jobs I’d considered as a kid, before (I thought) society had imposed its expectations on me.
I’d always dreamed of becoming an actor. But the more I thought about it, I realized my interest in acting was more an interest in fame. I wasn’t actually very interested in joining a local theater company.
Many writers use journaling as an effective way to explore the undercurrent of their emotions.
What’s the first thing you worry about when you wake up in the morning? If the doctor gave you three months to live, what would you do with the time? Why aren’t you doing that now? What makes you cry tears of joy? Why aren’t you doing that?
This isn’t just advice for those woo-woo, self-help bloggers either.
Social media junkies are scared they’ll sell their soul to get 5,000 friends on Facebook and still won’t have anyone to call when they have a bad accident on the interstate. New tech users worry they’ll drop their iPhone on the subway platform and will never, ever re-create their contacts list.
That little voice whispering insecurities in your ear all day long? He’s a blogger’s best friend.
Listen to your insecurities carefully, then find a way around them. This will likely bring up more insecurities. Find a way around those too.
Write about the solutions you find, with all the social intelligence you can muster.
You’ll not only be a better blogger, you’ll be a better person.
Reader Comments (125)
Mike Lopez says
A blog is a person’s extension online. Though most people see it as a resource, the blogger must also remember that this resource reflects your personality. – Mike
Couldn’t agree with you more. I always love blogs with a personality.
I genuinely love posts like this. There’s so much information online that offers a tactical, textbook approach to marketing and it’s always refreshing when something surfaces that hits a more personal, introspective note. I just finished writing about how we’re in the them business and that people aren’t simply looking for info, they’re looking for connections and people who will care and understand them. Well done, Jennifer.
Interesting post today and really quite relevant. Often, people write and yet don’t quite deliver on what they say they are writing about. This post really delivers. The five points you raised were spot on particularly the one about authenticity. Bloggers find it really hard to be authentic. There was a post her on CopyBlogger last week about blogging schizophrenia or something like that; being mad in one post and making the next one riddled with jokes so that the reader cannot really tell who exactly the blogger is. That is one of the hazards of lack of authenticity.
Building empathy is also another really relevant point. One way to do so is to use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. If you engage with your social network, when you throw out a feeler question, they will most likely reply. Then you can easily find out the peculiarities of a particular group of people and know how to adequately fashion your post.
There’s so much to take in here. It was not just a great post, but also an inspiring one.
Jen Gresham says
I really enjoyed the post last week on tone also. It’s a great complement to this one, because part of doing empathy well means talking the way your customers/readers talk. It’s been scientifically proven that if you can mimic their tone and speech patterns, they’ll like you more. And we all know what happens when you readers like you!
Randy Kemp says
Today’s post is very interesting and a bit different from the normal Copyblogger emphasize.
I’m always interested in career changes. Brian left a career as a lawyer to sell real estate, write copy and start this company. You left a career in science to become a transformation coach. I once met a couple of former medical doctors. Once became an Indian swami and the other a South American shaman. Who knows where a career change will lead you.
We do need to know some “pop” psychology and sociology to understand our audience. It even helps more if you studied the real academic stuff – but can leave it to communicate among the masses. It reminds me of the philosopher Nietzsche. Remember in Thus Spake Zarathustra, when he comes back to declare God is dead? Well, I for one don’t believe him. Then I didn’t believe it when Ayn Rand said the same thing.
But you gave us some great social insights to apply to blogging and other endeavors.
Jen Gresham says
I agree, Randy. As I’ve started talking to more and more people about career change, two things have become apparent: 1) you just can’t believe how many people are unhappy in their jobs, even the ones you think aren’t, and 2) those who are wildly successful have often gone through a re-invention somewhere in their past. It’s what I’m hoping to write a book about in the coming year. 🙂
Simon Turner says
These are incredibly wise words. You have described my Blog – good content, doing all the right things in each post (to a point) and it still does not take off in terms of content or subscribers.
At least I have a bit of a pointer now and I intend making the necessary changes.
Blogging is a very complex mix of understanding, writing, understanding the audience and reaching the audience. A balancing act. But not impossible.
Jen Gresham says
I think an important takeaway is that developing your social IQ takes work. Even when you understand the concept, you have keep at it. Blogging is as much about listening and interacting as it is writing.
Hang in there. You’ll get it!
Simon Turner says
Thanks for the encouragement Jen 🙂 I don’t give up easily lol
Allison Cheston says
This is a wonderful post and you are dead on in your analysis. But as Simon describes, he may be a person who demonstrates his high EQ through his blog and still, his traffic is paltry.
So my question to you, and I know you’ve done a lot of specific study around blogging and creating an audience, what can you do to improve traffic to your blog–the kind of traffic that appreciates what you have to say and how you say it–without making it your full-time job?
I would love to get some answers to that question!
Jen Gresham says
I think social intelligence not only has to permeate your writing, but your blog marketing too. Too many people pine for a RT of their post from a big name blogger, when they are far, far better off with a tweet from someone who only has 200 followers saying, “I adore this.”
I wish I could remember where I read it, maybe it was Chris Guillebeau, but the idea is to connect meaningfully with a core group, it doesn’t have to be large, and let them do the evangelizing for you. It’s slow growth that way, but it’s the right kind of growth. I heard about an online coach who’s making $200K a year with only 4000 subscribers.
It’s sounds easy: go connect with people! Get inside their heads and write for them! But it takes a ton of effort. One of the things I look at first on a blog is the conversation going on in the comment section. If you have very few comments and nothing terribly in-depth, I’m going to argue your engagement is low, even if your subscriber numbers are high.
To encourage the conversation on my own blog, I do a few things: 1) make sure my replies are meaningful and address their points, 2) I follow good followers, either on their blog or on Twitter, 3) I keep in touch behind the scenes via email with my best commenters.
It’s no mistake that my best commenters are all now online friends.
Chris Johnson says
>They create rapport by making readers feel valued, one person at a time.
That’s the rub. People want to syndicate before they connect. 1,000 true fans is all you need, if that many.
Danny Iny says
This is a great post – thanks, Jennifer! I’ve been reading a bunch of books about how to develop these skills early: Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky, and Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina. (No, I’m not a parent yet, but yes, I do love this stuff!)
You did a great job here, and thank you for linking to all those great resources.
I think part of the issue with lacking a social IQ is that because connections occur
“virtually” some people just forget the human element of things.
It is easy to get disconnect from the social element when your so intently focused
on the technical elements of developing a strong blog or online business.
Suggesting time alone as a remedy for improving social intelligence seems rather
counter-intuitive, but when I look at the context you’ve set it in I see the benefit.
I suppose I’d call the same process by a different name – transparency.
Transparency enables you to bring the social/human elements of emotion right
back into your blogging and your online business. Although transparency must
be executed with wisdom, I think it’s definitely a surefire way towards improving
social intelligence IQ.
Thank you for a great post. I love the topic and it reminds me of “emotional iQ” which has been an interesting debate over the years in regards to leadership and success….
I like Social IQ, however, because we all have the innate need to connect with others but somehow people need a little help understanding how to do that in a virtual, online world.
At a party, I have no issues with social iQ but when I first got online, it was really hard and continues to be challenging since you can’t physically walk up to someone and start a conversation….but perhaps that’s what our blogs are – great places to start that conversation.
Jen Gresham says
I’m the same way at parties, though I tend on the shy side. I think it’s because I’m highly tuned to nonverbal cues. Without them, I do feel a little lost.
I personally think blogs are all about conversation. I was talking to Chris Guillebeau once about blogging, and he said, “When someone comes to your blog, what’s the ONE thing you want them to do?” I said, “Leave a comment.” He looked at me like I was crazy. (Hint: the correct answer is subscribe.)
Chris is right–you have to know what your goal is and make sure you ask for that one thing. You can’t afford to confuse people with what you want them to do.
But it’s also true that subscribers don’t mean much if they don’t read and identify with your content, which is sadly more prevelant than we’d like to believe.
Pooja Khanna says
Very useful post – Thanks, Jennifer.
Steve Roy says
There are some great insights and ones that I am dealing with at the moment.
Following all the “proper steps” to creating a successful blog doesn’t always lead to success.
There are so many other factors and one you pointed out is so huge. Creating relationships, not contacts or numbers is something many miss out on.
Bloggers NEED to be fantastic networkers as so much online is tied together.
Dave Rowley | Creative Chai says
Thanks for adding to the complexity of being a blogger, because it was all seeming a little too easy there. Sheesh.
I really got a lot out of this. The idea of Situational Awareness struck a chord with me, it’s important in face -to-face relating, but more heightened on the web where we often have less visual and auditory cues to read.
Also loved Seth Godin’s take on Authenticity: ”doing what you promise, not being who you are.”
Thanks for a thought provoking post.
Jen Gresham says
LOL. Sorry! But as my PhD advisor used to tell me, “The most interesting questions are always complex.”
Yeah, it didn’t make me feel much better at the time either. But think of how satisfying it is once you’re mastered it! 🙂
Andrew Stark says
I only skim read your post, but here’s the reason why I’m commenting – you connected with me.
You gave me a good book reference, some background info about being a scientist, and overall I liked your style of writing.
I guess what I’m saying is that just asking people to comment isn’t enough anymore, and you have to press the buttons inside people to make them passionate enough to respond.
Jody Day says
I posted your blog on Twitter and you sent me a message almost immediately to say ‘thank you’.
That’s good social IQ!
I really enjoyed the way you translated Albrecht’s work to the art of blogging.
It took me quite a while to find my ‘voice’ on my blog, but I knew I’d got it when I started writing stuff that I felt a bit worried about people knowing. And sure enough, people started responding once I started being really authentic.
Now I’m in the process of developing a new blog to support the book I’ve co-authored coming out this Spring with HarperCollins… and so once again I’m thinking about ‘voice’.
Your blog was timely, intelligent and helpful.
Jen Gresham says
I think it’s important to find and connect with people where you obviously have something in common. I don’t reply or follow everyone. But anyone who’s also a fan of Ken Albrect is probably someone I’m going to enjoy talking to.
Yes, it’s when you are willing to have an opinion that your blog really takes off. It’s a funny thing. You have to have a good social IQ to succeed, but you also can’t be afraid to piss some people off.
As Julia Child said, “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” 🙂
Note Taking Nerd #2 says
Love your concept of talking to Grandma Minnie!
This could not only be applied to writing content for your site but the “Newbie” market can also be the best market to address if you’re selling information. There are far fewer grizzled pro’s in the market for advice. Those people think they “know it all” but the newbies, they’re the ones typing in “how do i fix ___________” into search engines which can totally lead them to, voila, a link that says “How to fix _______ ” bringing them to your blog.
And of course it’d be obvious to make a small mention at the end, that tells them that if they’re interested in mastering the “Cause” of the problem, fear or frustration, so that they can yank this dilemma out of their life by the root, you’ve put together an in-depth course that holds their hand through the entire process.
But I’d warn against building any kind of product until your social intelligence about the specific problems your niche market wants solved have been obtained by you getting your butt on the phone with a good sized number 15-30 of these people via “15-30 Minute Free Consults”.
During these calls you’ll get GOLD that you’ll never get “Hoping” people talk to you in your comment section, even though you ask oh so provocatively, oh so nicely for their feedback.
Talking one-on-one allows you to go so much deeper, faster. Just because writing is easy for you, it’s not easy for everyone to express their situation or opinion in pixel. But, we all like to talk to people who want to understand us.
Thanks Jennifer for making me think about this! God knows I need to be reminded to talk to Grandma!
I agree with most of the content of this post. I was, admittedly, late to social networking (been on FB and Twitter for less than 3.5 years), and found that if you just USE the technology and use it properly, you’ll figure out how to use it to properly grow you’re readership over time.
On the subject of Seth Godin, I’d also recommend his Purple Cow book. Just started reading it and it’s FABULOUS!!!!! (FYI, I’m not Seth Godin).
Sonia Simone says
It’s really sad to see a smart, talented person blow their business because their social skills are so bad. And a blog is a megaphone for bad social skills.
This is an important topic that folks should think about more often.
Jen Gresham says
Agreed! And I wonder, as we do more and more connecting virtually, if the trend will continue. I was pitching a book idea to a publisher at BlogWorld, and she said to me, “You know what I really want you to write about? Social skills!” Then she went on a tirade about folks who don’t have any.
I didn’t feel like writing a whole book on the topic, but a post on Copyblogger? Doesn’t get any better than that! 🙂
LaVonne Ellis says
I love it, Jen! Thanks so much for linking to the Customer Love ebook – David Crandall did an awesome job designing it and helping to write it.
I still struggle with social intelligence. In fact, the blog post I’m working on right now is about listening to others, and how we can show them we really care by simply paying attention. I’m just starting to understand that it’s not a talent you’re born with but something you have to work at.
Jen Gresham says
I think the Customer Love challenge (movement? rally? shindig?) is giving voice to what a lot of people in internet marketing are feeling these days. It’s not just important, it’s the only way to succeed. Keep shining, LaVonne! I think you’ve got that social IQ thing down pretty darn well. 🙂
Matt Clark - Damang Media says
Great post, I was just reading a book about Emotional Intelligence and with that information and this post. It provides some great information to make my blog my approachable. Thanks for sharing.
Having the presence, clarity, authenticity but mostly the empathy to write about people’s hopes, dreams as well as their frustrations is definitely the best way to get your readers to come back again and again. And as you so rightly pointed out these are people not just numbers in an algorithm. You write with all of the qualities that you write about Jen, and I loved this post|! Thanks for the thought provoker.
Thabo Hermanus says
Jen this was a great post (dare I say as usual)! “Successful bloggers build the confidence of their readers, not just themselves. They create rapport by making readers feel valued, one person at a time.” That is the AHA moment for me. How do you choose to measure a successful Blogger? I think too often we can get lost in the numbers as we want volumes in traffic and that can get you lost in the system if you are not careful. I will be honest, when I started, I wanted to be writing content that is viral and all those good things, but I realized it took the fun out of it for me. I write because I enjoy writing. I share because I have my moments when I can be derailed by the smallest event in my life that can get me to take my eye off the prize. I enjoy having the hindsight to talk to those scenarios when I Blog. I enjoy the odd Retweet of my articles and engagements with people that I find real, albeit short and sweet. I do not think I have the capacity to engage my audience should it get to the astronomical numbers I dreamed of when I started, so I admire people who have a huge following and I can see them get back to their community when comments are posted in numbers. So where before when I would get disappointed at the number of people that read my Blog, I see it as successful when someone reads a post and ululate when I get the odd comment.
Jen Gresham says
Absolutely, Thabo. In fact, it’s something I’m struggling with a bit as my blog continues to grow. But I like to think it’s a bit like the transition from high school to university. Study habits that worked in the former may utterly fail in the latter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed there.
But I agree with you. My whole message is “define success on your own terms.” I know one of the things that holds many people back is statistics. When I first considered changing careers to be a writer, I looked at how likely it was I’d win a Pulitzer or get on the NYT best seller list. Not that it isn’t worth trying for, but failing to get there doesn’t make you a failure.
Nancy Hyden Woodward says
I found it very hard – and, at the same time, surprisingly easy – to speak my mind on my blog. I say “easy” because I had to get the reader’s attention – and hold it – before I can move on to what they really need to know.
The odd thing about this site is that it has received 6 or, 8 comments from people whom I do not know, Yet, until this moment, I have not publicized the site to anyone, anywhere.
I’ve found that if you are a fence walker, not rocking the boat, kind of person, that being authentic may not work for you. People are looking for answers. They are looking for people who can help them and who tell them what they should do and think, with authority. It doesn’t mean they will do it, or think it, but they want someone to have confidence it what they are saying and to take a stand.
If you are a boring person with nothing to say, or a bit wishy/washy, then being authentic isn’t really going to get you anywhere. Everyone, however, has something unique about them. A unique view or talent that they can share and use to write with confidence. Figure out what yours is and then fly with it.
Great post, Jen. As always!
“People are looking for answers. They are looking for people who can tell them what they should do and think, with authority.”
This is a great danger. No one should be telling people what to do or think. Particularly through the Internet, which distorts the voice tremendously. Instead, writers should be challenging. They should be asking questions. they should be encouraging debate. They should be inspiring people to think for themselves.
Being authentic means being able to have genuine curiosity, to be open to learning. That is a great social skill and a great social grace. Listening is what it is all about–and it is possible to write in a “listening’ mode, to write in such a way as to invite dialogue. When one has such a skill, rather than a declamatory mode, then all the comments, replies, messages you will ever desire will come pouring in.
Dawn Lennon says
Your posts never disappoint. I’ve been blogging for 14 months and have gradually seen my traffic increase as I become more adept at following your points. With a little experience under my belt, each one of your points takes on a richer meaning. So thanks for being so generous with your insights and for writing such wonderful prose. ~Dawn
Daniel Roach says
I’m pretty sure the biggest myth of blogging is still that it’s an easy way to make money without having to deal with those pesky customers – you write it, money appears…because THAT happens. I really appreciate this post, Jen. This is the one aspect of myself and my business that I always try to improve because I feel that working on my own social IQ is about my customers and readers, not about me. Improving myself is just ensuring that they don’t have to fight through (or worse, give up on) my eccentricities and faults. It means I can be quirky and be myself, but give my content in the way that’s best for them, not best for me. Thanks again for this post, it’s a great one.
I really like this post. You said it right, that this is as much about blogging, as it is about life.
Being new (less than six months) to the blogging world and loving it. I find many blogs to be a little self serving.
Your points are well taken. I do agree that many great bloggers reveal themselves and show the person behind the words. Absolutely love the ending of your article. “You’ll not only be a better blogger, but you’ll be a better person” So very true and thank you for your inspiring post.
Katie Goode says
Great info Jen. I really appreciate what you said about authenticity… I’m a therapist and all through school we’re told to limit self disclosure (I also supervisor therapist trainees and interns and tell them the same thing) so I’ve really struggled with thinking authentic voice = talk about or reveal personal info. It really helps to have another way to look at it.
Jen Gresham says
This is a huge point and let me clear it up now: being authentic does NOT mean you need to reveal things online you’d hestitate to share in real life. A lot of people interpret it that way, but it’s just not true. The point is, it’s far easier to reveal yourself when you’re standing in front of someone. Without even opening your mouth, people make assumptions about whether or not they think they’d like you (love at first sight, anyone?). So in the blog world, you have to work extra hard because all that stuff if missing.
I think part of being authentic is a lot about being comfortable with your online persona. It’s always good to push your boundaries, but in the end, you are who you are. Be proud of it. 🙂
Alison Golden says
Those final questions about how we want to spend our time are invaluable to anyone, blogger or not.
And situational awareness: man, I wish people were better at that, online and in RL, too.
Jen, what a brilliant post, one of your very best. I don’t know why but I feel it comes from a very deep and mature place, almost like a recent realization of yours which you are so excited to share. I can’t add anything but agree. Understanding another human being and connecting with them is the most powerful asset for us as bloggers and it can be developed yes but it also has to come naturally.
Thank you for all the lessons here, Jen, and keep shining and writing….THIS is the real career for you, I can feel it. 🙂
Jen Gresham says
Thanks, Farnoosh. It’s true: connecting with people is the root of life. As a naturally shy/introverted person, I struggled to find the best way to do this. Technology is awesome. 🙂
I’m excited and grateful to pursue this new career direction. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I look forward to Monday mornings (certainly this one!). Thanks for sharing them with me!
I don’t think we can ever over-estimate the power of social IQ. Whether online, where as you succinctly pointed out, it is an essential tool for bloggers, but also in life. I once read a stat which reported that 80% of Human Resource decisions were based on social/emotional IQ. It’s not always the most talented candidate that books the gig. How well you get along with others trumps the skill set more often, than not.
Thanks for pointing out how empathy is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. And we really can’t teach empathy, as much as it is a part of our psychological and physiological bones. Empathy is golden, and what separates the authentic voices from the charming posers.
People reveal themselves. It may be harder to decipher someone’s character online, but with time, and through active (silent) listening, we will find our socially intelligent peeps!
Thanks for an inspiring read:).
Jen – loved this post, and totally agree. It’s so hard to self-diagnose sometimes what is wrong with a blog that isn’t doing well, and this is ACTIONABLE. I’m using it and going to pass it along. Thanks!
Kathy Morelli, LPC says
Loved this post. I started blogging in September 2010 and I am hooked! I am getting better at it as I study the art of blogging..it is not a term paper, it is like a conversation. I love finding out who I am through the writing and developing an audience!
Elizabeth Doherty Thomas says
Great post! For my niche, therapists, there seems to be too little passion (which means the reader won’t care), or too much passion (focused on the therapist, not the reader.)
The comments here have been as useful as the post – which is the POINT of a good blog. Go, Jen!! 🙂
As always Jen you’ve struck quite a chord with this. I’m pretty sure I’m the elder stateswoman here which explains how I heard about social IQ about 25 years ago. Most of my working life was in sales and social IQ is primarily what makes a successful salesperson. In my mind, in its simplest form social IQ is honesty, which translates to authenticity as you stated. Scam artists are a dime a dozen in sales, no matter the product or service they’re representing, and that makes people leery. In my experience, if you believe in what you’re selling you will be totally honest and direct with your clients. You’ll create trust. Trust is the key to success.
Today our blogs have become our ‘pitch’ if you will. The difference now is how a virtual world makes it impossible to look someone in the eye when you ‘speak’ to them. For me that means trying even harder to open yourself up and leave no doubt about the truth you’re putting out there.
After a year of blogging I would like to see my subscribers increase like everyone else, but I worry less about it now than I did 6 months ago. I prefer an engaged group who give and take, even if they prefer not to do it in the comment section, than 2000 casual passers by.
Thanks for another thought provoking post!
Reading your blog and the comments has been very helpful. I’m curious. The topic I blog on is extramarital affairs. This is a topic I’m guessing people feel a little concerned about privacy about and might not comment for those reasons. I encourage people to comment anonymously if they are concerned – but then I can’t connect with them off the blog, etc. I wonder what your thoughts are on this.
I’ve been talking to a friend and co-organizer a lot lately about the clinical approach to blogging and social media that so many local marketers seem to have. They forget that, as Jon Morrow said, those numbers represent people.
Too often I see marketers who have become hardened to their work and have very little patience or connection with the people for whom they claim to be in business. A true connection often involves much more listening than speaking so blog posts that make the reader feel as if you are really listening , and writing specifically for them, are the ones that make the biggest splash.
Great insight, as always!!
Bryce Christiansen says
Wow, what a great perspective on blogging. I make some of these mistakes unknowingly, so it is very useful to read your suggestions and to look through the resources you mentioned.
I take for granted my readers some times. I think that was an excellent tip to write like it was your grandmother. Not that she is my audience, but to see if my writing is clear and easy to understand.
Great work here, hope to see more!
Fantastic post! Not just for bloggers but for people in general.
I’ve only just personally started to find my blogging “voice,” and it’s funny how you mention that, if you’re used to writing term papers, finding it can be tricky. That was exactly one my of problems.
I was so worried about coming across as “professional” that I forgot to imbue any sort of personality or presence into any of my posts.
Living the Balanced Life says
I agree this takes work. When I started my 2nd blog, which was supposed to be my *professional* blog, I realized I changed the tone and the aspect from which I was writing, almost like reading magazine articles. Just the information and no personality. I realized fairly quickly that wasn’t what I wanted to give my readers nor was it what they wanted to read. My blog is about overcoming personal struggles and helping others do the same. I have to write from a personal standpoint. I just have to be careful and draw a line somewhere, because there still needs to be a line. It’s just a very fine one!
Thanks for the post!
The Gifts of Imperfection- A Giveaway!
Another great post, Jen! The blogs I read regularly are the ones that do exactly what you propose, including EverydayBright.Having known you for many years, I appreciate that your social IQ has always been HUGE! This fact comes through more clearly with each blog post. Keep up the great work!
Hi Jennifer – I really got a lot out of reading your blog. You gave me an aaah moment – I now have the perfect checklist to improve my blog writing! have just recently started an online marketing business and there is so much to learn -blogging being one of them – which is why i signed up to the copyblogger newsletter. Im learning so much and your article resonates with me. I agree that its important to engage a reader in a personable, empathetic and authentic way, as thats the sort of way I would respond to as a reader. Will certainly remember that as I persevere in becoming a better blogger. Thanks.
Marshall Adler says
Jennifer, excellent post!
What you said about Situational Awareness made me laugh out loud. I experience this every day. Not with myself in particular but with people who live in my condominium complex. They come home late at night blaring their music and waking me and my fiance up from a deep sleep. The people across the way laugh so loud that you can hear them and it goes on until the wee hours of the morning. I regret the compulsive decision I made to move into this complex and I was going to go over and smash some windows but then you printed that copy on Situational Awareness. 🙂
It would be great if someone wrote a post on what to do after you write a post.
How do we even get people to our blog in the first place? What methods of advertising do we use to get traffic to our blog? Do we submit our posts somewhere?
All I ever get from Copyblogger is ways to stand out, ways to get interaction and ways to write better copy but noone says anything about what we are supposed to do once we submit a blog post or publish a new post.
Jen Gresham says
I think the reason you hear a lot about those topics is because if you don’t start there, all the “advertising” in the world won’t help you. This isn’t a chicken and the egg problem–great content preceeds everything else.
That said, there’s a lot you can do to get noticed and there are even posts on Copyblogger that discuss them! Things like guest posting, press releases, how to get RT and links from power bloggers, SEO, etc.
But the message of THIS post speaks to your question as well. Once you know what your hypothetical readers think and fear, you can connect with them through social media and starting talking to them about it. Don’t just ask them to go visit your site. Talk to them about what you’re doing, why you’re excited about, ask them lots of questions, and over time, if you do a good job of it, that will lead people back to your site. And if you succeed in engaging them, they will begin to spread the news about your site themselves.
But also remember it takes a long time to do all that. You have to be patient to let momentum do its hard work. As someone who’s not naturally patient, I realize my suggestion isn’t easy. 🙂
Hope that helps!
Jen Gresham says
P.S. I don’t live in an apartment complex, but it sure seems like we share neighbors! 🙂
Niall Harbison says
Never really thought about it this way before. I generally come back to blogs time and time again because the content is good and because I have some sort of connection with the blogger. I don’t mean that I have a real world connection but more that I just like their style and the way they conduct themselves. I think it’s essential that some sort of personality shines through.
Irene Savarese says
Very inspiring post Jen,
I agree that being authentic is essential in connecting to readers. Especially when readers are hoping to learn something about how to connect in relationships and need real advice they can use right away with their partner. Let me tell you a story about connecting or the lack thereof. I am a couples therapist and started blogging only six months ago. I am aware that it takes time to get blog readers/subscriber, and I have learned that people are reluctant to comment on my blog. Now, because I don’t get feedback, I am not sure why. Blogger friends of mine suggested that I turn off the comment option, because it can be a challenge to get people to comment in our field of therapy. I was seriously thinking about doing that, when a couple I have been seeing told me that they loved reading the comments, but that they hesitated because the comments were so elaborate and smart.
Wow, what do I do? Well, I told them that other people might be thinking the same, and that they could just write a short comment about anything. No need to be very personal and disclose more than they felt appropriate, because other couples don’t expect that.
Perhaps I should write a post about this and tie it into how hard it is to communicate inner feelings and show vulnerabilities.
Katie | Momentum Gathering says
Jen, terrific stuff. It’s funny you’re talking about situational awareness. I was just explaining the concept to my daughter yesterday as we drove along and some jackass, I mean situationally-unaware person, cut us off. Being blindsided by a blogger who turns out to be after my bucks (or shoves a pop-up in my face when I least expect it) is kind of similar. I steer clear. I think your tips for upping your social IQ are bang on. Authenticity and empathy are really what it’s all about. Nicely done, Jen.
Till date social skills meant soft skills or the communication skills. But you have rightly posted this post at the right time when social skills is actually taking a different definition all together.
And yes, you are right. We need to address to this new revolution. FB, Twitter and Blogs have all made it important to be efficient in social skills on net! And I never responded to this issue so well before but it will be different from now on.
So just a question for reflection – since so much social IQ in blogging is how others interpret who you are? How do you handle attacks? Either via comments on your blog then you don’t ahve to approve them, but what about nastiness on twitter or on another bloggers blog?
Jen Gresham says
I always, always take the high road. I demonstrate the behavior I want to see in others. I will let a mild attack on me or my position on a subject stay on the blog, but absolutely wouldn’t tolerate attacks between commenters. I would simply delete the comments. Discourse is good, attack is not. I haven’t run into the problem on Twitter, but such tactics often backfire on the person attempting them. Benny the Irish Polyglot told me he got a huge boost in his subscriber count by a rival blog that engaged in a kind of social media war (which Benny himself ignored).
Honestly, I’ve found the internet to be a pretty friendly place. Then again, I thought boot camp was funny, so I may not be the best judge. LOL
Matthew Gartland says
Wonderful article Jennifer!
Your five points are incredibly sharp. I think “presence” is particularly noteworthy for both it’s criticality and difficulty (not to diminish the other points though).
Finding your voice, true voice, is hard. And unleashing that voice in a meaningful way that’s clear, concise, and inspiring is even harder.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on such an important subject 🙂
Mark Harai says
Hi Jen — I agree with every point you’ve made here in this post about how to make your blogging efforts more effective — except one: I believe you’re either born with, or develop social skills at a very early age and although you may be able to improve upon them, it won’t be by much. That would be like becoming a different person.
You are who you are after all, there’s no faking ‘you’ and unless there’s some kind of miraculous transformation, (super-natural or drug induced) you’re social skills are going to remain pretty consistent throughout your adult life.
My recommendation is if can’t help but be an inconsiderate, unkind, thoughtless, insensitive, tactless j%^k a#s, or the like, you may want to consider hiring someone else to head up your blogging/ social media efforts.
OK, kidding here a bit, but seriously, if you lack personality and enjoyment of interacting with others in a constructive way, there are others more suited to handle your social media efforts.
Cheers to you and this post Jen : )
Jen Gresham says
Had to laugh at your comment. Yes, if you are a jerk, this post won’t get you there. BUT, I think there are a lot of kind-hearted, well-intentioned souls who really don’t mean to come off as brusque or wooden or snarky. They may try to adopt the persona of someone they admire, but because it’s not authentic for them, it comes off poorly. Or the screen in front of them slows them down enough, it ruins the natural spontaneity of their voice.
My old boss said my greatest strength (and weakness) was that I saw the good in everyone.
He was right. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing. I really mean it. Maraming salamat, Jen.
Derek Potocki says
I have a suspicion that a lot of bloggers go to blogging with inept social skills. That’s why they start blogging in the first place.
We think that we can hide from the real world behind our desk-tops, lap-tops, iPhones and iPads so we don’t have to interact with people eye to eye.
The reality sets in rather quickly. We realize that blogging is often just like dating or doing business on Broad Street.
The good thing is: Blogging helps me in my offline business because I better understand social dynamics.
Learning social skills has been and continues to be a challenging and exhilarating journey to me.
Your post is a next step in that journey.
Jen Gresham says
Do you really think most bloggers start because they have inept social skills? I can only say that my experience at BlogWorld runs to the contrary of that assumption.
Now maybe it’s true that only the best and brightest bloggers attend that conference, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy–of course they all have high social IQs, they’re successful bloggers!
Derek Potocki says
I did not say “most bloggers” but “a lot of bloggers”. And yes, these are just assumptions not scientific research. Many bloggers are techies that know about technology but not much about human interaction. “Social IQ schools” are non-existent, but computer programming schools abound.
And yes, Blog World is not the best representation of blogging world.
But blogging is also a great opportunity for techies to learn social skills. If we have confidence and a mind open to learning, we can have blogs that people will read and maybe even buy from:)
It’s an intriguing idea to me that the primary points of attraction I may have to someone’s blog are, indeed, likely the same as (or similar to) those that would draw me to the person himself/herself. After giving this some consideration, I have to admit I think the notion rings true. Because in addition to sharing the area(s) of common interest that pulled me in to begin with, it takes characteristics such as humor, wit, straightforwardness, and sincerity to keep me in my seat. And I don’t think you can fake those qualities any easier–maybe less so–online than you can in person. Great, thought-provoking post…
Amy Magnus says
I like Benjamin Bloom’s writings on intelligence. Your take on social intelligence is similar to the Affective Domain, one of Bloom’s three learning domains. My research in machine intelligence and authoritative presentation of actionable information tends to focus on the cognitive but, as is obvious from your post, authority is more than competency, it is also influence. More here: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html
Donny Gamble says
I think having a low social IQ is good to have because it allows you to capitalize on areas that you are weak
Thank you so much for the thought-provoking post–beautifully and cogently written. What a relief to read writing with such clarity!
Jeff Consiglio says
Truly a lot of good food for thought here, and something I probably need work on. But would you not agree that some blogs do well with the author taking the exact OPPOSITE approach….by having a curmudgeony of an online persona for instance?
Yes–interesting idea that authenticity of voice might not be particularly pleasant, just human and engaged. Voice along with content. Good discussion here.
An interesting tension between the concept of an “online persona” and authenticity. How do you reconcile them?
Jen Gresham says
It’s a great point. Good social skills don’t mean, a priori, that you have to be sweet. I would argue those who pull off the curmudgeon are experts at social IQ. One example that comes to mind is Ramit Sethi. He may call you an idiot or lazy, but underneath that he makes sure it’s absolutely clear he’s doing it because he cares. Because he wants you to succeed.
No matter what persona you’re using, you still have to understand these principles. The more of a curmudgeon you are, the more that’s true.
Gillian, you raise a great point about personas and authenticity. I think your persona should be a magnification of who you really are, or at least some part of you. After all, we all carry different personas around inside of us (for me: the wife, the mother, the writer, the career woman, etc). As long as you’re true to one of them, I think it’s okay to adopt the persona that best suits your subject. I DON’T think it’s okay to create a false persona. I know a leader who did that with weekly emails, and when people figured it out, there was a huge backlash. Cost the guy a promotion.
False personas are deadly. Just – don’t – do – it. Period.
Ambassador Bruny says
Nice post JenG! It’s interesting because as socially intelligent as I am in the real world, it just doesn’t seem to shine in the blogosphere. I’m going to take your advice to heart and listen to that little voice in my mind during some alone time (I’ve been stranded out of town due to a broken car so the local coffee shop has become my safe haven).
Great to see a Brazen Careerist doing her thing.
P.s. I just discovered Copyblogger 2 months ago and love everything they create.
“Listen to your insecurities carefully, then find a way around them. This will likely bring up more insecurities. Find a way around those too. ” Great post, Jen. I do think that those inevitable insecurities are the keys to connecting with people. We all have them. If you find a way to address your insecurities and share it with honesty and respect, you have given something valuable that others will want to absorb and pass along. Thanks!
Diego Cardenas says
There has been a lot of talk about social intelligence; thankfully this talk has been mixed with the need for authenticity here. On the other hand I have seen that social intelligence, or cognition, (basically a fancy definition of not behaving like an ass in a social situation.) If left unchecked, can really destroy individuality.
Most people out there are locked in fear precisely because they are taught this social regulations all their life and really become afraid of being who they are and start to conform and compromise their truth.
Social intelligence might include not expressing your excitement or contempt towards something, which leads to just a bad habit of repression that I feel is at the root of why many people struggle to find a way to create anything (Be it writing, art, music or whatever) or why there is so much hypocrisy.
This social intelligence is a double-edged sword that can really stifle the inner genius I honestly believe every human has.
Mixed with self-intelligence though, aha!, there we have a killer weapon.
The thing is, that to have a social intelligence that doesn’t shit on your individuality one has to spend time alone facing their shadow.
The Shadow is Carl Jung’s definition of one’s repressed self, fancy jargon for insecurities and attitudes within you haven’t had the balls to face. Personally is a psychological concept everyone, on any walk of life should look into.
That lack of balls as far as standing up for oneself and taking the time to have aan honest relationship with your inner world mixed with worrying about what a social environment requires can really fuck you up!!
Another great post on copyblogger. I have been into blogging for the past seven months and I have done most of these mistakes by myself. But before I even start reading this article I have realised my mistakes and now I have engaged in the process of increasing my social IQ. Anyway, thanks for sharing an useful article.
Mike Cormack says
Great post. I wonder how this would appliy for corporate blogs, though? There’s a tension between wanting to promote the biz and giving readers what they want – do you think?
Jen Gresham says
I don’t see a conflict. The best way to promote your biz is to give readers/customers what they want and need. To do that, you must have empathy, authority, authenticity, and clarity. I think these principles are even more important for corporate bloggers.
Laurie Zimmerman says
This is one of my favorite topics! And it’s completely relevant to life, not just blogging. If we all took Jennifer Gresham’s advice, what a thoughtful world this would be. Thanks for these tips!
Martin Boyd says
Great read. Worth bookmarking and reviewing every so often to remind us when we feel we are losing a bit of direction
Josh | ProfitBlog.com says
Great post! Thanks so much Jennifer. 🙂
The parts about being authentic and also finding out what your fears or insecurities are and then writing about the solutions is great advice. I’ve been working on those two things for a while and am always open to advice or tips on how to do it better.
Thank you for this post. I am reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Bradberry and Greaves right now so I was already interested in this idea. I feel like I may want to go back and re-read your post and then re-read the book and then re-read some of my blog posts to see if my blog has good “emotional intelligence.”
Your post made me draw the connection I probably would not have otherwise – so again, thank you.
Jen Gresham says
If this inspires you to re-read Emotional Intelligence and several blog posts, then wow, that’s as good a reaction as a blogger can hope for. Responses like yours are what encourage us to keep writing. Thanks!
Thanks Jennifer…what a terrific post! As you mentioned, in so many ways I saw myself in what you wrote. Thanks for opening my eyes 🙂
I am an amateur blogger and a semi-amateur writer who is also an intern in a digital full service web designing company. I am truly impressed with the content I found on this blog for several reasons; many blogs are very good at giving out advice but hardly follow it themselves, in this case I can say that its not true. Jennifer followed her own advice and wrote very easy- to-relate-to content, even for someone like me. Secondly it seems like in this post, Jennifer was overcame her fear of not having her blog read, although by the numerous number of responses to her post perhaps not. Third of all the blog seems to call for honesty and genuine interest in material, which I agree with.
Jim Parco says
Brava! You are the epitome of what you write, Jen. We should all heed your astute advice.
A HOME RUN – I love it!
It really boils down to finding your voice, and realizing that not everyone will respond (and being ok with that).
The old age sums it up perfectly: you can’t please all the people, all the time.
I’m sure this Blog hasn’t “clicked” for plenty of readers. Does that mean the authors should change their voice to accommodate the tastes of the readers that don’t “get” their material, in an effort to retain their readership? Certainly not, as all the readers who adore this Blog, just as it is, would be aghast. This Blog is committed to the readers that “get” the material, and embrace the voice this Blog employs.
The more you commit to your voice, the more authentic you will become and the more readers will respond to you.
Robyn Gobbel LCSW says
Awesome post Jennifer! I especially love the parts about authenticity. Wonderful to see you here!
Dave Grimes II says
Wow! This is a fantastic article. I’m glad you went into such detail too! Really a good read.
It’s actually pretty relevant, since I was brought in to my company primarily for my people skills. Most tech people have a severe deficiency in this area (no offense to anyone like that). I was just the ingredient to solve that problem. Add in my writing ability and my ambition, and I was a perfect fit! Good thing for me that the folks at ThesisReady feel the same way about social skills as you do!
Jen Gresham says
Coming from the field of science, I will say I only partially agree with your observation. Techies tend to be more shy than your average person, and as a society we’re pretty hard on shy people. That is, they may be aware of what they should do socially, but fear prevents them from doing it.
Pushy, loud-mouthed management majors (random example, not indicative of my opinion of mgt majors) aren’t much better in terms of social IQ, they’re just more accepted. And that acceptance can make them blind to the effects of their boorishness.
All that said, I’m delighted to hear you found such a good match for your skills. Honestly, it’s so rare for someonte to say they like their job these days, it just makes me happy inside to hear it. Congrats!
We all like people to care about us, so why not treat others the same way. I think we need to get back to listening to others, and trusting people. Most of us can’t stand sales people taking advantage of us, so I agree with your ideas.
Vaclav Gregor says
Thanks for giving me another skill to work on. You are right, why do I know that? Because this is exactly what I feel in your articles. You focus on emotions and reader’s feel that you are writing for them. Great job!
PS: It might be good idea to give photos to the “author box”.
Situational Awareness is rather important not only in blogging but also in daily work especially for those who work in a multi-national organizations like me. Great advice. Thanks
Jen, I am so thrilled to see you here on Copyblogger! How wonderful!! Such a great article full of brilliant advice and insights!
I loved this, “That little voice whispering insecurities in your ear all day long? He’s a blogger’s best friend.”
Jan Bush says
Jen, I just started a blog. You provided good insight on how I need to approach my social IQ. Thank you! I enjoy your regular blog, also. Jan
Nate Whitson says
Awesome post, I think you may have frightened a few people! I’ll respond to your topic through my eyes. As the VP of marketing at InternMatch it can be difficult connecting with students, but that is the fun of things! I have seen many small businesses struggle because of their lack of connection with a younger audience. A great example is a blog for students. Sometimes companies stray away from letting students guest post and have trouble listening to student comments. We encourage businesses like these to allow students to run their blogs (with a hint of managing of course.) Interns are a great way to get part of your target demographic into your office. How do you feel about this slow shift? Are students worthy of blogging to their peers for a business targeting young customers?
VP of Marketing, InternMatch
Jen Gresham says
Well, I hope I didn’t scare anyone. That sure wasn’t the point. We all have to work on this to some degree. It’s not like you get to the top of Mt. Olympus and can say, “Okay, check!” Nope, social IQ is something you work on your whole life (ideally anyway).
It’s hard for me to imagine writing a blog for a particular group and then not wanting to hear what they have to say. So yeah, guest posts, managing, you name it! There’s no age limit for excellence or good ideas. Go for it!
Etienne Garbugli says
Interesting post. I particularily enjoyed the last part about questions you should ask yourself to better understand your motivations.
Unfortunately, I think it’s probably as difficult for a list or a book to help someone develop social IQ as it is to apply these levers to a blog. Context and social etiquette are very different online; a lot of people probably have a good social IQ in person but just don’t know how to apply this to online communications. I think I fall in this category. 🙂
andy white says
Hi, thanks for a really interesting post. On my own blog, I stopped trying to be all things to all men and just started to write in my own style about the stuff that appeals to me. Good stuff, bad stuff, annoying stuff, just stuff.
I enjoy it and seem to be building a following of people who like it too. I feel, if you try to hard, it comes across to the reader and that’s not fun for anyone.
Enjoy yourself and there’s a fair chance that others will too.
Nancy Hyden Woodward says
My social problem at the moment is worrying if I am being too honest in what I refer to as my “serious site”.
And yet, to be less than honest would compromise what I want readers to understand (i.e. don’t go down the same route my family did) . Although I have not publicized this site until this very moment, it has received 8 comments from total strangers and who, it would seem, have neither the website nor the email that they listed.
Knowing that, do I ignore it or do I delete the remark? Save for one who seems to wonder if I’m copying from somewhere, the comments are positive and appear to be from people for whom English is a later learned language. And that makes me wonder where this site is being seen when I think it still is hidden!
andy white says
Hi Nancy. I’d delete the comments. I think you’ll find that they’re spam and contain links to direct traffic to other, unscrupulous, sites. You’ll probably get a lot of them.
All the best,
Fascinating read about social intelligence. I work for a digital marketing agency and I provide a lot of the copy writing services for our clients, meaning that I write for several different blogs. Lately, the voice I use for one blog has been creeping into a voice I use for another. What’s happening is that instead of putting on different hats for each blog, I’ve been finding a more crafted voice and using that to better my copy. I would definitely attribute this to my heightening social intelligence. This hadn’t crossed my mind until just finishing your article, so thank you for the insight.
Emily Foshee says
This post gives all of us valuable information to remember when we’re writing our own blogs. It’s so easy to hide behind our blog; after all we never have to talk to someone face to face; we just create what we perceive to be a well written, witty post, hit “publish” and we’re good to go. I completely agree…we need to put more of our personality into each post; write like you’re sitting at Starbucks with a trusted colleague and you’re sharing information with him or her that you hope will help solve their business challenges.
It’s scary being yourself in front of the world when writing online, but it’ necessary to communicate the person behind the blog as a real, live, honest to goodness person.
Great post! Thank you.
Web Agent says
Totally agree! Following these 4 tips will surely make way for loyalty, which is one of the most important in business. Once you’ve captured one customer’s loyalty this will surely spread like wildfire among his/her friends and family, making you gain more customers. It’s also a matter of having the perfect market strategy to capture all of these factors you mentioned. With good marketing strategy and people skills, you will no doubt see exceptional results in sales. 🙂
Christopher Hudson says
Good advice … if you have any kind of an audience at all. Unfortunately, the blog’o’sphere is huge and it is dang near impossible to gain any attention … at least for a social wallflower.
This article's comments are closed.