This guest post is by Annika Martins of annikamartins.com.
We hear it all the time.
Create blog content that is relevant to your subscribers.
Seems easy, right?
Maybe, but most of us screw it up.
Especially when we’re just starting out, knowing precisely what content will get the best reaction is actually incredibly difficult. As a result, many of us choose post topics in the worst way possible: we guess.
Inspired by my own experiences and conversations with clients, I published four months’ worth of blog posts and videos addressing issues that I thought my readers would care about.
It didn’t turn out so well.
My comments yo-yoed up and down. One post would get 15 comments, the next raked in a whopping zero. And no matter how much time I spent analyzing the differences between them, I couldn’t find an explanation for the stark contrast in comment numbers.
Why “inspired” videos often flop
Although I was drawing my post topics from real-life examples that were relevant to the theme of my blog, each week’s post was a total experiment. I went with whatever cool idea popped into my mind, an issue brought up by the client I had spoken to that morning, or the email I had just received.
I had no clear editorial strategy. What’s worse? I never directly asked my subscribers what they wanted from the blog. Did they want links to a ton of technical resources to help them with SEO? Did they want how-to tutorials on the major social media platforms? Did they want my opinion on the best (and worst) high-level marketing tactics?
I didn’t know what they wanted because I didn’t ask them. I made assumptions, and while sometimes my guesses hit the nail on the head (15 comments), others flopped miserably (a big fat zero).
2012: The year of the good ol’ Q&A
Determined to start 2012 with a video blog that pulled in consistent comments, I ditched the guess-work altogether.
My first video of the year announced I was switching to a question-and-answer format. I asked subscribers to send in the questions that were top of mind for them. I gave them my email address and also invited them to post their ideas in the comments below the video and on Twitter. I promised to provide a video response to every question, as long as it related to the general theme of my blog. I gave no other guidelines.
Handing over control like this does a couple things:
- It shows your readers you trust them. You don’t need to impose a dozen restrictions like an overbearing parent.
- This also builds enormous good will. Readers don’t miss the fact that they are getting customized content for free. Everyone loves valuable, relevant material with no strings attached. Everyone.
But here’s the kicker:
Customization is key
Not only do I start each video by reading the person’s question exactly the way they phrased it, but I also say their name and thank them for submitting the question.
And throughout the video, as I’m answering the question, I use their name again. I’m speaking directly to them. Your readers will adore you for validating them in this way.
Offering the Q&A opportunity to your existing subscribers is a great start, but what about new visitors to your site?
Add a link/button to your homepage encouraging new visitors to submit their questions as well. Not only will this help keep your content mill full, but it’s also a perfect way to build your list. Once they’ve submitted their question, make it easy for them to sign up to your list immediately.
I don’t have massive ProBlogger-esque comment numbers to brag about. And I’m okay with that. Increasing comment numbers is all well and good, but keep your focus on the quality of those engagement points, not the quantity.
Since transitioning to this Q&A format, my blog is finally achieving the strategic goals I started out with:
- Build rapport with current subscribers.
- Establish credibility in my niche.
- Grow my email list.
Even without massive comment numbers, I am accomplishing those things now, so I swear by the effectiveness of the Q&A.
It’s a simple equation: Give people what they want (customized, useful and free content) and they’ll give you what you want (comments, signing up for your email list, purchasing your products/services).
Has anyone else adopted a Q&A format on their blog? How’s it going? Or are you a subscriber of a blog that uses this format? What do you like (or dislike) about it?
Annika Martins uses the Q&A format on her video blog about women entrepreneurs who want practical business tips delivered with soul. Don’t believe she really answers every (relevant) question she receives? Click here to submit your question and find out. You can also send her your Q via Twitter – she’s @annikamartins.