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
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.
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!
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?