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.