What is the difference between writing and blogging? Do you really know?
Before going on, please read part one HERE.
I was listening to Lynn Serafinn during the Publishing Success Summit and she spoke about social media layers and how this influences a writer who strives to build an author platform through the blog. I read complaints from many writers who want to start blogs but are not sure what to blog about.
I thought about this and how beneficial it may be for some authors to come up with a strategy. Well, I hate to use the word strategy because it makes it sound too much like a plan when what we blog about should be a natural extension of us. However, there may be some who really do need to develop a system. They want to use the blog to help their writing but they aren’t sure how to blog or how to use it as an author. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk to you about author blogs or what makes one. (I have my own opinions on that. I’ll share them later). Instead, let’s explore something to which we’re all familiar.
How many of you have seen Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor? I’m not a Tyler Perry fan but this movie had a great message: You never leave 80 for 20.
Briefly, here is what the movie is about:
Judith is a therapist who works at a matchmaking agency owned by Janice and is married to Brice, whom Judith has known since she was six. After obtaining her masters Judith is unfulfilled and dissatisfied with her job and anxious to start her own marriage counseling business, but Brice tells her to wait until they are more financially stable. Meanwhile, Judith meets Harley at work, a wealthy Internet entrepreneur who wants to invest in Janice’s business. He attempts to seduce Judith as they work late on matchmaking surveys. When Harley questions the absence of sex in the surveys, Judith says she does not believe in premarital sex. Harley thinks Judith’s sex life is boring and Judith, now questioning her sex life with Brice, tries to improve it.
Long story short, when Judith changes her hair and makeup for her birthday and Brice fails to notice the change or remember her birthday, Judith is more inclined to give into Harley’s advances (though she is unwilling to admit it). She receives flowers that she believes are from Brice but are really from Harley who appears and notes her change in appearance – something she didn’t get from Brice (hope you’re seeing where I’m going with this). Janice sends Judith to New Orleans with Harley to finalize a deal with shareholders, telling her to flirt with Harley, but also to be careful. Judith’s co-worker, Ava gives Judith a makeover and in New Orleans, Judith and Harley complete the business deal and go dancing and sightseeing. On the way home, Harley seduces Judith in his private jet and the sexual tension between them is solidified when Judith gives in. She has the affair.
The moral of the story is that Harley is 20%. Yes, the sex is good but there isn’t anything of substance that would denote he is husband material. After the making out there is basically nothing. This isn’t to say that Brice is perfect either but Judith could have communicated with Brice how she likes it and kept the 80% she was getting from him while working on the 20% she wasn’t getting. At the end of the day, you never leave 80 for 20 people.
Everyone’s got flaws, but you don’t leave someone with at least 80% of their stuff together for someone who just looks good but head is in the clouds, also known as 20. Anyway, it looks good and probably feels the same but after that, there’s nothing left. No mind. No aspirations. Nothing.
In blogging, it helps (or at least it has helped me) if 80% of your time is spent networking and providing value. Writing is good but building a blog takes a little bit more than that. How do we measure a blog’s success? That depends on the individual. One thing is for sure, writing is just 20%. To learn to blog is to do much more and that much more is largely rooted in one word: Network.
- Comments – When they come, respond back to them! Yes, on comments left to you on the blogs of others too.
- Negative Feedback – It happens. Not everyone is going to agree with you. If you publish a controversial post, be prepared to stand on it.
- Carve Out Some Time – Be ready to put the hours in that are necessary to achieve your blog goals. If you want to increase your number of followers/subscribers, it’s going to take you blogging more than once a month. I may not have many subscribers myself but I will tell you, with my integrity in tact, that I have earned every last one of you! I put mad hours into this blog. As expressed in The First 300: How I Reached 300 Blog Followers in 3 Months, I started this blog publishing three posts a day for six days. Yes, I only took one day off from blogging and not because anyone forced me to. Of course I’ve slowed down now but I can only afford to do that because of the foundation I’ve laid in the beginning.
- Work on Your Tags – The tagging on my older posts are just sad. Don’t be like me. Jason over at Harsh Reality has some great advice on tagging. He recommends 15 Tags (includes a category. Categories act as tags) and is a mixture of unique as well as generic tags. Generic tags are tags that are used the most by bloggers like blog, blogging, bloggers. Unique tags are tags that are exclusive to your post, tags you make up or tailor to your content. Because of this theme, my tags show up at the top of each of my post. Look at them. In each of my post you’ll count 14 tags. My 15th tag is my category. Or, you’ll count 13 tags if I chose two categories and so on (the lesser my tags, the more the categories. Remember, categories count as tags). To learn more, visit Jason’s posts on tagging. I’ve followed his advice since the beginning and it has worked for me thus far. No, I don’t have the link. You have to do some of the work.
- Visible Follow Buttons – I’ve been preaching this same “sermon” for probably about a year now but it’s only because I run into it probably every day. I’m trying to follow someone’s blog but I can’t find the follow button. That means guess what? I’m not following you. Go to your WP Dashboard > Widgets and add a follow button. Make sure it’s the one that says “Follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts via email”. The other one will just allow people to follow you through the reader.
- About Page – Although I am starting to wonder how many people pay attention to the about page (people tend to follow a blog after liking a post that caught their attention, hoping to receive the same kind of content) be sure to complete your about page. It just looks professional and helps those who do read about pages to know more about you. (Tip: Read a blogger about page. You’d be surprised to find many of your questions about them answered).
- INTERACT – This is in all caps for a reason. If you’re interested in building a blog that does well, be sure that you’re interacting with others. Try to leave comments that aren’t so phony. OK, let me define “phony”. It’s OK to be short, but to really start to get to know people you’re going to have to say more than “Great post!” There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you find something that really moves you, dig in as my mother used to say. Give us full explanations on why you feel a certain way. This allows your personality to come out and for others to be prompted to respond. This is how relationships are formed, through communication.
- Easy to Read – The easier your blog is to read, the better. Stay away from brightly colored text that is hard to read and clutter. Don’t just throw your blog furniture all over the place. Too many widgets are distracting.
Providing Value means (but is not limited to):
– Well written and consistent content (Aka blogging as often as possible)
– Following other blogs (and re-blogging others)
– Responding to comments (both on your blog and the blogs of others)
– Promoting and helping others
– Writing about life in general (not just your writing)
– Keeping your blog updated, clean, easy to read, and easy to follow (so like, have a follow button!)
Is there a word that sticks out to you? Right. Others. Blogging isn’t about just focusing on content far as publishing posts are concerned (which is why it’s about more than just writing. Sorry, but blogging does have a lot to do with the technical things as well. Views, stats, subscribers, tags, photos, etc.) it also means that most of your time is spent on engaging your readers and helping others.
In short, it may help if authors learn to blog because it will help (or at least it has helped me so far) to reach a new readership. I also believe in the importance of building trust and that authors should do this first before expecting new readers.
The reason you spend most of your time (80%) understanding blogging and doing it effectively (if you’re trying to build a blog that is. If you don’t care about blogging or think it’s a waste of time then this obviously does not apply to you) is because people must grow to like you enough to trust you and no one needs a Best-Selling book or fancy certificate to understand that. In fact, I’ve learned that learning how to blog (which I am still doing myself) is just understanding people in general. What are they trusting you to do? They’re trusting you to deliver valuable content without constantly selling to them. If people think you’re just trying to sell your book to them, they won’t trust that your content is genuine. No matter how relevant, they will ignore your service because they think you’re just out to make money.
Serafinn identified four layers of social media and we all know that when baking a cake or pie or anything that has layers, we know that the good stuff is somewhere in the middle, not at the top.
Lynn didn’t name the layers in her interview so I took the liberty of doing so. You know, so this is a bit more fun.
Layer 1: The Crust
– The crust is the top layer and it is oh so good! But, it is also usually too good. You see, the crust doesn’t usually have any nutritional value to it whether that’s the buttery crust on an apple pie or crust on the lasagna (you know that’s where all that cheese is!). Per Serafinn, the first layer is made up of people who don’t know you at all and don’t care about you or your writings. The crust looks good but that’s about it.
Layer 2: The Sauce
– I call layer two the sauce. Like layer one, the sauce doesn’t do much. Although it may provide a bit more than the crust only because there are probably bits of onions and green peppers in there somewhere. The second layer is the people who follow you on social networks and know you only slightly. Maybe they liked your Tweet or Facebook Post.
Layer 3: The Noodle
– Now we’re starting to get somewhere. I call the third layer the noodle. It’s bound to provide a lot more substance than crust and sauce. At least the noodle will coat your stomach. The third group is your casual blog visitors. They know you a little bit more than the second group because they read your blog every so often.
Layer 4: The Meat
– Now we’re deep into it and get to take a mouthful of that delicious meatball! The final layer is the layer we want to pay attention to. They are our regular blog readers or people who support us consistently. They are always liking, commenting, and sharing our content, they have signed up to our email lists, and may have even bought a book. These are the people who trust us more than the other three groups because they read us consistently. They are the meat. This isn’t to say they know you in the deeper sense of the word considering it takes so much more to really get to know a person but they are trying and on the surface of knowing, these are the people who at least trust you more than the other groups to deliver. This is the layer we want to grow because it means that they will support us during that 20% of the time that we are pushing our books.
Writers looking to build a readership through the blog should focus on building trust with the fourth layer by providing valuable content on a consistent basis. This means that you should do more than post excerpts and chapters of your book. Even if you’re a great writer blogging is more than that. By networking, commenting, sharing, and sharing other things about ourselves we are giving people enough to grasp at our personality or become interested in who we are as a person. This will lead them to genuinely care about our writing. How so? You are concerned about people you care about. The more people get to know you, genuinely as a person (not that phony stuff), the more interested they are in your work because they are interested in you.
Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release July 15-16, 2017. For updates on this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.