Sunday, April 11, 2010

5 Ways to Stimulate a Conversation With Your Blog Community

Have you ever read a book where you can’t wait to finish it, so you can start experimenting with what you’ve just learned? Your mind explodes with all kinds of creative ideas you want to use immediately.  In short you are fired up!

I had one of those moments this morning.  The book responsible for my “kick in the pants” is one written by fellow Chicagoan, and influential blogger,  Liz Strauss.  Entitled “The Secret to Writing a Successful and Outstanding Blog” it is available, via ebook, for $29.00 US.  In my opinion it is worth every penny!

So, why was I attracted to this book? Well, for some time now I have been contemplating ways to elevate the caliber of my blog.  While my blog content is solid, based upon feedback I am receiving, I am disappointed in my readership growth.  I perceive there is much room for improvement, but am not sure where to begin.  Thus I embarked on a quest to find a new formula for success.

I did not have to journey far.  I have been following Liz on Twitter, for quite some time. (I recommend you follow her too)   In fact, at Jeff Hurt’s suggestion,  I made contact with her a couple of months ago, by telephone.  I instantly liked her, and we had a terrific conversation.

Liz Strauss

Liz Strauss

At some point Liz mentioned SOBCON 2010, an upcoming conference for bloggers, which will take place in Chicago, 4/3- -5/2, 2010.  In her words, “SOBCon is the think tank of the social web, where the best minds in the Internet space gather to present models, discuss insights, and determine best practices.”

Based upon the recommendation of several colleagues, and my conversation with Liz, I will be attending SOBCON 2010.

While registering for the conference, I noticed an ad for  her book.  The timing was perfect, being in “fix myself” mode, so I bought it.  Easily, it is my “purchase of the year.” … at least so far, anyways.

What are the top learning lessons from the book? There were many nuggets of wisdom offered throughout this ebook, too many to list in this article.   So, here are my “Top Five” takeaways:

Takeaway #1:  Get off the podium — so true … in my efforts to provide high quality content, I sometimes unintentionally come across as a lecturer, rather than a collaborator.  Ironically, I detest lecture-based presentations and embrace community-based learning.

We don’t like to be taught, but we like to learn. And learning is easier, more fun, and more meaningful when we do it in the company of friends who support us. Rather than be the “sage on the stage,” be the “guide alongside.”  –Liz Strauss, SOBCon 2010

Takeaway #2:  Information is all over the Internet, but your viewpoint isn’t — Once again, another trap I sometimes fall into …  The information driving  a topic may not be unique, but my viewpoint of it is.   I believe this is a great truth to remember when writing.  Regurgitating facts to readers does not stimulate much of a conversation. Sharing viewpoints, or experiences encourages it!

Takeaway #3:  Let folks who read help you as much as you help them — If I leave the door open, with my writing, for people to offer constructive ideas I have started a  conversation.  A productive technique is to ask an open-ended question, without providing the complete answer.

Takeaway #4:  Leave what you say a little unfinished — Don’t obsess with providing all the  relevant information on a particular subject.  It’s ok for me to leave out some details. In fact, that is a good thing, as it will provide my readers with an opportunity to add something to the discussion.

Takeaway #5:  Follow up a comment response up with a question — the whole goal of a blog is to start a conversation and keep it going.  Asking a question during a response to a reader’s comment invites more interaction with them.  What a great concept!  :)

I am really excited about the upcoming SobCon Conference, and to strengthening my connection with you, my fellow community members.  If you are a blogger, you need to read Liz’s book.  She has a wealth of knowledge, strong instincts, and a warm personality to go along with it.  I know she would love to hear from you!

Question:  Do these ideas resonate with you?  For you bloggers, what practices have you incorporated into your writing style to keep you on track, and connected to your readers?  Or, if you are a reader, not a blogger, what could I, or the blogging community, be doing better, or differently?  Do tell!

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Doreen Ashton Wagner April 11, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for pointing out these tips & Liz’s e-book, Mike. I just started blogging only a month ago and these points do resonate with me! It seems I’ve been over-thinking this all along… The point to leave a little unfinished has made me realize I’ve been focusing on being too perfect with some of my posts! And to ask questions to create conversations… I like that! I’ll have to check out the book too!

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Jenise Fryatt April 11, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I so wish I could go to SOBCON too! But I will definitely have to check out Liz’s book. She is so supportive and inspirational!

I have been guilty of perfectionism and obsessive rule following, both of which can be killers for stimulating creativity and conversation in a blog. The takeaways you’ve described make a lot of sense because they would counteract these bad habits.

I know a lot of people think being a perfectionist is a good thing, but think about it. Perfectionism is about going it alone, not allowing people to see your work unless their are no flaws. After a while, you edit yourself so much that you can hardly breathe!

A successful blog, as Liz points out, is a place for questions, conversation and debate. This can only happen when we stop acting like we need to pontificate and just share ideas with curiosity and humility.

Thanks Mike! I sure hope you will share a lot more of what you learn when you get back from SOBCON 2010!

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Michael M McCurry CMP April 11, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Hi Doreen,

I am glad to hear you enjoyed the tips and the referral to Liz’s book.

I have been blogging for over a year and I also just realized I have been over-thinking my content as well. So it is refreshing to realize that I don’t have to have all the answers. Perhaps its more important to have questions that stimulate discussion?

I look forward to checking out your blog content and also to continued conversations with you in the future.

Thanks for contributing,

@michaelmccurry

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Michael M McCurry CMP April 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Hi Jenise —

I couldn’t agree with you more, and I have been guilty of some of the same things you mention.

All of us need to remember that by relying upon each other for progressive thoughts and opinions only then will we find the best answers to the questions we are all wrestling with.

Your blog is fantastic and I look forward to every post you put up there.

You are amazingly perceptive with your insights and I thank you for contributing here.

All the best,

@michaelmccurry

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mike mcallen April 11, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Mike-
I met Liz several years ago at Blogworld. I had a really nice conversation with her and I have been following her for a long time. Have you considered going to Blogworld? They have many interesting sessions plus the many bloggers and podcasters to chat it up with.

Cheers and I love the new look of your blog. You have inspired me to update meetingspodcast.com.

Cheers my friend

Mike

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Michael M McCurry CMP April 11, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Hey Mike,

I met Rick Calvert, with Blogworld at the MTO Summit a couple weeks ago. What a great guy! I am not sure if I will make it to Blogworld or not… will have to see how my expenses and schedule go.

Glad you like the new look of the blog… I am really trying to up the anty, both with content and look/appearance

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

@michaelmccurry

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Dave Lutz April 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Mike, great post! Blogging is hard work and with all the noise out there, writing posts that encourage a discussion, is even more difficult. I like the takeaways you have so far. I think another good tip is to mix up the mediums. Posting more videos, slide decks, e-books, etc. makes your blog a bit more rich. I also like when you’re able to show a little humility so that readers can get to know you more as a real person.

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Michael M McCurry CMP April 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Hi Dave,

Great point about the mediums. They definitely add spice and variety to your posts.

And… yes, not having all the answers is a good thing. I am certainly one of those people. I learn new things every day in this blogosphere.

Thanks for contributing!

@michaelmccurry

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Midori Connolly April 12, 2010 at 7:30 pm

You know, Mike, I actually think that you’ve been right on the money with your blog. While you might be concerned that you haven’t sparked enough “conversation”, at least your postings are relevant, timely and interesting.

Your writing voice is clear and visiting McCurry’s Corner is almost as good as slipping down to the local pub 😉
Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl
http://www.twitter.com/GreenA_V

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Michael M McCurry CMP April 13, 2010 at 8:22 am

Hey Midori,

Thanks so much for the positive comments… they are much appreciated!

Slipping down to the Pub, now that sounds like something worth blogging about :)

You rock!

@michaelmccurry

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Gillian Martin Mehers April 13, 2010 at 1:22 am

This is a great blogpost, I also find that sharing implicity knowledge (how to knowledge) like you have done with this blog post, is a great way to use a blog and add value/content to the discussion and share our learning. As people move from Google search, to friends and mavens search, putting this information out their for on-demand use, is a great way to help people tailor their personal knowledge management systems. Thanks for the tips! Gillian @Bright Green Learning

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Michael M McCurry CMP April 13, 2010 at 8:25 am

Welcome Gillian, to the conversation!

Your insight is right on… “Implicity Knowledge” …. what a great concept.

Do you recommend a more effective way to get information like this out there to more people? What other topics do you see as being “hot” ?

Just curious, and thanks so much for contributing!

@michaelmccurry

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