Blog Content: Values and Strategy

I want this blog to be open-ended. I don’t want to make content for a defined goal, in the traditional sense of writing to serve the audience of a niche. I want my “niche” to be my fascination with how connections happen online… or basically whatever makes me think, and I’m a pretty eclectic person. This poses certain problems when it comes to defining a content development goal. As Jennifer Osborne said in part two of her Blog Strategy series, “A strategy is the plan for achieving a defined goal. A tactic is the “doing” part of the strategy.” There are some key words in there: plan; defined; goal and strategy. Planning is difficult without defined goals.

Defining goals and objectives gives plans a frame of reference that allows for assessment, polishing and re-polishing. A goal might be to write a blog post two or three times a week, but is posting enough? I want my content to go deeper than facts about topics. I want to connect. How?

I think there are levels of engagement that can be inspired by the qualities of blog content.

Levels of Readership Engagement

Level 1. Regular Posting Simply writing a blog post twice a week is not enough of a goal to be interesting or productive, to myself or, probably, to a readership. We’ve all seen and written posts that don’t say much or do much, and they may have their place. However, the posts that engender engagement are a different animal.

Level 2. Content With a Strategy I’d be getting closer to engagement with a plan to write a one- or two-page post, twice a week, that will help me get the word out about a specific topic. The difference is that I’d be trying to “get the word out” about “something specific.” Is word getting “out,” or does it stop at my blog? Which posts work? Looking at why things develop helps a blog improve. Keyword strategy becomes possible here, as concrete terms start to be investigated more broadly.

Level 3. Value There’s still a missing piece: why do I care, and why should the reader care? Specifically, why is this one- to two-page post going to be valuable, and what values are fed by this post? When someone who writes intelligently is also writing from a place of values, their material is more interesting and useful, and I am more likely to be engaged. If the reader is lucky, the writer is also brave enough to share personal insight, and insightful enough to have it in the first place. My belief is that this is where branding starts to become more than slapping a logo in the header: there is at least some identity behind the content. With identity behind the content, readers are given a window through which to identify with the blog.

Level 4. Stewardship of a Readership A smart, practiced writer or blog content manager will support the creative vulnerability of level 3. If they’re good, they take care of another set of priorities above and beyond the twice a week one- to two-page post: care and feeding of the readership. Give readers what they expect, generally when they expect, and them give them something extra – get to know them, promote them, promote to them. Make friends. Be friends. Mean it. Shake hands.

Level 5. Being Community Community is bigger than what happens withing the private garden of a blog or a forum. True community includes a relationship between the smaller world of whatever happens on the site, and the wider world of the rest of a readership’s lives and interests. Community is when link building strategies and reader stewardship tactics quit being part of the development plan and start to feel like natural outgrowths of the character of a place.

Thoughts About Blog Content Promotion

Keyword strategy on its own is good for about levels 1 and 2. Crappy link bait might get to level 2 1/2. Friends who already have a connection with the writer will help out at level 2. A readership will evangelize at levels 4 and 5, which also helps organically created, keyword-rich link text to have real value. I doubt that so-called “viral” is possible without some level 5 type community in place to help circulate ideas.

You may have noticed that I just skipped level 3. I think that sometimes marketers do, too.

  • What marketing is not. Marketing is like the connective tissue of the Internet. It is not the heart and soul, and it cannot circulate lifeblood; it can promote – mimic lifeblood – in the same way a heart-lung machine can keep a human body physically alive. Marketing cannot create the natural circulation of ideas.
  • People socialize and circulate ideas. Marketing builds conduits that attempt to move products and services. Social media provides conduits that attempt to foster a sense of community. Conduits are only conduits. Infrastructure is only infrastructure. People move the lifeblood, the opinions, interests and ideas.
  • People need community and identity. Community helps us trust and want to communicate. Identity helps us empathize, gives us something to hang a hat on, interpret difference between the party hat, the floppy sunhat and the classic stetson. IMHO the lynch pin of getting information listened to and associated with the source happens at level 3 – value, value and a brand identity with some soul in it.

Setting a Blogging Objective

Content is not visible without promotion, and promotion is not effective without an objective that is connected to a specific, quantifiable goal… so here goes.

My ultimate goal at this point in time is to enjoy writing about the Internet while making people think.

“Making people think” means more people: more RSS subscribers and more StumbleUpon fans. Organic search traffic is nice and linked mainly to WordPress, and some of those visitors do community-style things like send me emails to say they’re coming back for more posts on other topics, so I’ll also continue writing the occasional snack topics like WordPress.

For starters on the deeper gist of the “think” in “making people think,” these are three of my favorite thinking topics:

  • Identity – Branding beyond logo and colors
  • Community – What sparks it and keeps it energized, online and locally, through social media and other kinds of venues, and any supportive roles that marketing can play
  • Culture – Specifically how the Internet can be a positive force of understanding and respect in this era of terrorism and military activism

Community keeps coming up as a part of what I want to do and talk about. Could opening up to guest posts about online identity, community and cultural relationships help to build a sense of community? In a few weeks that may be something to think about.

The “All About Me” Factor

Here’s a theory on the “Elizabeth stuff” I was obsessing about a few posts ago. I think that if content is quality, maybe it’s OK to put myself first, IF I am also respecting the reader: no trying to “sell” anyone on thinking or behaving how I would like. The value for me will be to be making a deeper contribution through writing about what fascinates me personally. The value for my readers will be there or it won’t. Without exploring the possibility, I won’t know.

I’ll think of it as starting at the top. I’ve got a built-in corner on keyword me, and I might as well see where it takes me. The longer I think it over, the longer I put keyword “me” on hold, and life is short and I am not. :)

Next: Blog Post Ideas for Challenging Industries

Jenn’s post for today will be “How to Come up with Blog Post Ideas for Challenging Industries.” LOL. I am so there. This week I’ll be following along again, as well as thinking through how to get my ideas from this post into more of a structured outline.

In case you, too, are interested in following along, I strongly recommend it as a way to re-think your own goals and self-imposed limitations. These are the topics that Jennifer will be posting at the Search Engine People Blog each Monday, throughout the five weeks of her series on Blog Strategy:

  1. How to Sell your Client on a Blog Strategy
  2. How to develop a Blog Strategy What makes it a ‘Strategy’ versus just implementing a Blog?
  3. How to Come up with Blog Post Ideas for Challenging Industries
  4. What are realistic measures of success for your Client’s Blog?
  5. How to get your Blog Traffic to Convert
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