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Being Three-Dimensional

In Nicks The 80/20 Rule of Focus post he recommends against too many off topic posts

bloggers start off very focused on their core topic. But as they run dry of things to say, usually at around the same time that their subscriber base starts to really get into interesting figures, they start to wander wildly off-topic.

I want to talk about the other side of the coin, the problem where all your posts stick too rigidly to the main topic. Contradictory? Not really.

While I quite agree that we should stick to the theme most of the time, as in Nicks post where he suggests it is ok for one out of five posts to stray off topic I would suggest every now and then you talk about something other than your main subject. My preference would be something that provides some insight into you.

This thought came this morning as I was catching up on my news feeds. When I am away I do not read the majority of my feeds, I have a dislike of web based news readers plus if I am away it is for a reason and that reason is very unlikely to include reading blogs. When I got back from this trip I have been programming a couple of small things for Performancing (one of which will be revealed soon). Subsequently I had a couple of weeks backlog waiting for me this morning.

When you read a lot of blog posts all at once you start seeing patterns. It has been a source of a couple of my posts in the past. The pattern I saw this morning made me realise something I knew before but it really hit home. My favourite bloggers and blogs tend to be the ones where the blogger makes an effort to be three-dimensional.

What do I mean by that?

Well I don’t mean that all they post about is themselves. Although having said that one of my favourite bloggers perhaps over-shares (even down to posting pictures of her new hairstyles, complete with Flickr gallery of same). I mean colouring in the lines so the blogger comes across as human. Small details, back story, likes and dislikes. Stuff that is happening to them.

It is not necessary to devote entire posts to personal updates, in fact I think it works best when this stuff is dropped in as support for an idea.

As an example, if you are a gadget blogger you might talk about not just the gadget you are reviewing or previewing but about what you might use it for, what context in your life might it be just the thing you need. It doesn’t need to be over personal either. One of my blogs is on Photography so when we are planning to go away we talk about what we are buying in preparation and when we are on trips we tend to post about how our equipment performed on location.

It’s easy to forget that bloggers and blog readers are first and foremost people. Blogs are about people communicating, some times we focus too much on the communication aspect and forget the people aspect.

There is a delicate balance to strike between showing that you are a real person and opening up too much. I would not recommend providing too many details about where you live, your spouse, children and your movements for example, that opens you up to dangerous situations with strangers appearing on your doorstep like happened to Darren. Also do not turn your blog into a journal if it is not meant to be, people subscribe for the content they expect not pictures of your cat.

I think though if you do manage to share just a little bit of a picture of who you are your readers will feel closer to you, will be more likely to take on board what you say and be more inclined to return for more.

Author: Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.

9 thoughts on “Being Three-Dimensional

  1. As a subscriber to your blog D’Arcy I know that it is always 100% on topic. It’s the online diary of a Canadian guy who works in a learning technology field. Had you started it out with more focus and called it http://www.learningcommons.com then it would have felt more off topic when you discussed other things. You decide what your topic is but your audience has certain expectations, it’s up to you how much you cater to those expectations.

    It’s always your choice, this stuff is all about choices.

  2. It feels like majority of what I blog about is “off topic” – but who defines what the topic is? It’s my blog. My outboard brain. If I’m thinking about it, it’s on topic automatically, by definition, to me. Might be egocentric, but if anyone has problems, they can unsubscribe and/or start their own blog…

  3. I used to blog just to keep my family and friends updated on what’s happening while I am away at school, but now as I’m getting more and more involved in outside projects and programming, I’m finding myself wanting to blog mostly tech-related subjects with a sprinkle of real life. However, I always seem to lose the interest of my friends who consider themselves very non-techy. I’ll see if I can figure out how to mix in my personal life with the technology, but it seems harder that it should.

    Should I split into two separate blogs or should I use two “super categories” like Life and Tech? Then I could direct readers to the appropriate area (davereid.net/blog/life vs davereid.net/blog/tech).

  4. I think even jack of all trades blogs have broad themes. For example there is a “technology” flavour or the blogger has a funny writing style even if the subject is not humour. As I said, you dont have to devote entire posts to it.

  5. A Jack of all trades has to have 1/n rule, where n is the number of topics he has opinions about.

    It might seem absurd, but there are people like us, who blog about the latest ‘buzzwords of the day’ It’s a highly opinionated blog but isn’t that what conversations are all about? Your opinions and mine? I don’t do reviews, I don’t specialize in a niche. I blog simply because I have some opinions.

    So does the 80/20 rule or for that matter, the 50/50 rule, still apply?

    Regards,
    Shri.

  6. I was about to say that I like it when the bloggers I read share personal info, making them more interesting and accessible. But it’s also true I don’t read them for that reason – more to find out about their professional views on matter in which they are experts.

    So 80/20 sounds about right if you have a core competency ….but….

    What’s a jack of all trades to blog about?

  7. I like the style too, more personal chatty than lecture I think. Hah, it’s always a popular item to put in a picture of your cat.

  8. The main body of my posts are usually, quite frankly, rather dull, so to make it a bit more interesting my usual posting pattern is an introductory paragraph about theme of the main body, then one to three paragraphs of usually personal stuff or opinion related to the main body, then the main body beneath the fold.

    I personally like the style, though I have no idea what my readers think, of course. I’ve even managed to work in a kitten picture whilst staying on topic!

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