4 Tips on Improving Your Listening Ear as a Blogger

It pays to be a good listener... you know this to be true!

One of the most significant lessons that I’ve learned in the past few years as a blogger is to simply make sure that I’m actively listening to the community that I’m a part of.

The challenge for most bloggers is that they feel they either don’t have an audience at all that’s listening or they feel that they do but they aren’t actually doing anything about it (either on purpose or simply because of ignorance).

All that being said it’s definitely easier to listen when the community is small (and growing) but much harder as the community gets more large, more diverse, and definitely more opinionated on the topics that you’re covering and even about how you’re writing about them!

In fact, one of the first times you might even hear something at all from the community is when you change something about your writing style, WordPress Theme, or even something else that you might have felt was pretty innocuous but was actually critical for your visitor’s experience! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed up something on my blogs that I felt was pretty harmless only to get a tongue lashing from the community! Odd how that happens a lot, by the way.

And I’ve learned a thing or two about how to really listen to the community (and I’m still learning a ton!) and here are some things that might give you some insight and/or perspective on how to do it a bit better than you’re doing today:

1. Ask for Advice and Then Go Do It

Advice is good when you take it to heart!

One of the best ways in which I’ve engaged the community and really proven that I’m actively listening to their needs is simply ask for advice from them.

Here’s the simple truth: The community at large surrounding your blog have more expertise than you probably give them credit for! Sure, they are there to learn from you and to hear your unique voice but they have opinions that matter as well as perhaps experiences that you could learn from as well!

So are you asking for advice and then actually making the adjustments necessary to prove that you’re listening and taking heed? It’s fascinating how many bloggers ask for advice but never actually do anything about it. That’s a shame since I think this, overtime, proves that they are really there for their own needs and opinions first and not really interested in the community’s collective wisdom.

2. Be Accessible and Available

If you’re listening it assumes that you’re actually available and accessible to the community. This means more than just having a “Contact” page and offering a few links to your email (that you might not even check very much). This means that you will actually read and respond to your community’s needs in a timely and fair fashion.

Sure, it’s definitely hard to scale this at times since it’s not easy to read and respond to every single comment every single time when your blog grows but I feel that most blogs scale over time and that the blogger has the opportunity to adjust as things change and grow.

And you know this to be true as well as you’ve encountered “online personas” and bloggers who you know will no answer your emails nor are they truly reading their comments. Isn’t that a shame that it’s that obvious on some blogs? What kind of brand are they really creating for themselves? I simply don’t think that’s really sustainable.

Know your boundaries... and make sure your readers know them too!

3. Know and Share Your Boundaries

Some of the most accessible and available people are the ones who have created boundaries that they and the community respect. This is an area that I’ve improved much better historically and also an area that I’m trying to become much better at all the time.

The simple fact is that I love the blogs that I write for and the community that’s being developed! But, I have a tendency to overextend myself and to be (at times) too engaged for my own good. A good communicator knows the boundaries of their communication is let’s their community know what is appropriate in terms of expectations and what is not.

It’s not perfect, for sure, as some people simply have zero social graces (and can’t seem to read anyone else’s) but it’ll capture the attention of those that really matter and that are your biggest supporters and fans. Do your community a favor and show them that you’re truly listening by establishing those boundaries of how you will listen and respond to their needs.

A few practical thoughts on how one could do this better:

  • Explicitly state what communication forms are the best for you and for them! Is that email? Phone? Text message? Twitter? Facebook?
  • List your hours of availability on your blog explicitly. I’ve seen some people do this with great success.
  • Be explicit on what types of communication or questions that you’ll entertain. This can easily lessen churn and emails that simply you do not want to answer.
  • Get help via an administrative assistant or a team and then define roles and responsibilities. I’m actively looking into this as an alternative for what I want to do here on TentBlogger (and my much bigger needs).

I’m sure there are some other great strategies that you may have used here so I’d love your thoughts! The point is that no one can be a perfect listener within the context of the blogging world but you can do yourself a favor (and your readers) by giving them some guidelines and boundaries!

Humility is never overrated.

4. Be Willing to Be Wrong

There can be a general “know-it-all” attitude that you see often in the blogosphere. I find this unattractive and very silly since I’ve never known anyone, even some of the smartest people I know, to absolutely have a firm grasp on everything within their field.

The difference can be very subtle but you know it when you see it – this person, you’d say to yourself, can admit when they don’t have it altogether.

I think that’s an important part of listening and one element in relationships (especially marriage) that’s vitally important. The willingness to be wrong (and to admit that you’re wrong) is an important characteristic in one’s ability to actually listen with intent.

I know a lot about blogging and I’ve been doing it for a long time but I don’t have all the answers and I know that I’ve got a lot to learn. I appreciate the community here and I’ve become a better blogger because of you!

Love to hear any other thoughts on how you’ve seen bloggers be exceptional listeners with their community!

And, how can I listen better to you here on TentBlogger?

  • http://flurrycreations.com/theblog John

    It amazes me how many people bloggers are still stuck in broadcast mode. I never thought of posting “hours” on my blog but that is a great idea. Maybe twitter hours am and pm.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      ;)

  • Randy Cantrell

    Always learning something from you, John. Thanks!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thanks randy! i’m trying my best.!

  • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

    This is something I have been dedicated to from the beginning. I knew from launch that I didn’t want my blog to be a monologue, but a dialogue instead.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      any great blog posts examples so far on your blog?

      • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

        My very first social media post was basically me asking “What would you like to know about social media?” and I didn’t get as many responses as I would have hoped, but it was my FIRST post. I will be re-posting periodically so I anticipate more community questions.

        • http://john.do John Saddington

          sweet!!

  • Brandon

    I love your blog, but one thing I (and I am sure many other people) am having is my traffic. I am not getting very much traffic at all. I went from having about 70 average to now about 50. I don’t know if it is the time of year or what, but I am putting out better content now than ever…

    Just wanted to know your thoughts on how to get my traffic up because it is one reason for me not writing such in-depth posts and really spending a lot of time designing it…

  • http://Benrwoodard.com Ben

    You’ve brought out some really interesting points in this article John. There definitly has to be a balance. I’m looking at this from a church leadership standpoint. If you have a pastor that doesn’t delegate or allow others to take on the vision you can end up with an effective ministry but it is limited in scope.
    Part of building a community has to be allowing others to take on your vision and run with it.

    I’ve begun seeing that on Tentblogger as well as other blogs I frequent. As they grow in numbers they encourage (usually indirectly) others to answer questions or step into a discussion that’s headed nowhere. I love that.

    From this side of things, I get a little irritated when someone walks into a room and all the sudden begins asking questions or confronting “errors” they see. In order to be an effective speaker (that the “listener” wants to respond to), one has to be an effective listener themselves. I’ve put my foot in my mouth so many times on blogs and comments when I didn’t look into the sitution like I should have.

    John and community, thanks for listening!

    • http://amethystwebsitedesign.com Marcy

      Ben, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on church vision. I really needed to hear that.

      • http://benrwoodard.com Ben

        Your welcome Marcy.

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        ben’s a great guy… isn’t he?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sure ben! glad you’re here. seriously!

  • http://www.LaurindaOnLeadership.com Laurinda

    I love the idea of posting hours! That’s so cool. I never considered that. I will think about this for my blog and social media activities.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      let me know what you come up with!

  • @jakemusselman

    These are good thoughts. But not easy thoughts. I like how you’ve boiled it down to expectations. What does the community expect of you? And what do you expect of the community? When the expectations are inline everybody is pleased. When they aren’t frustration ensues.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i think you’re right! expection management is crucial.!

  • http://www.alanknox.net Alan Knox

    Very good points. I’ve also found that, when replying to commenters, it helps to find something you and the commenter agree on, and to ask for further clarification or explanation on points that you may disagree on.

    -Alan

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i like this!

  • http://chrisvonada.com chris vonada

    John,

    This is very helpful, thank you! I’ve found it is also helpful to seek and obtain advice/feedback from friends that will tell you exactly how they see it, not necessarily what you want to hear but just the honest truth as they see it.

    “The willingness to be wrong (and to admit that you’re wrong) is an important characteristic in one’s ability to actually listen with intent.” JS – THE quote of the week!!

    Chris

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i try… it’s easier said than done!

  • Scott Moreno

    Great post! Being a good listener and utilizing some of these points not only can have a positive impact on your blog, but personal and work life as well. If everyone’s boss perfected these listening skills, everyone would benefit and issues would easily be resolved. We live in a very diverse world and everyone has something different to offer. Thanks again.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i thrive on diversity and diverse thinking! interesting how we seek to stop it so often…!

  • http://www.furmanifesto.com Jon

    This tips are money. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thnaks jon!

  • http://www.furmanifesto.com Jon

    And by “this” I mean these!