“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” — Chinese Proverb
— Darren Rowse (@problogger) March 23, 2016
I tweeted this little proverb a few days ago because it encouraged me in a moment of personal frustration with the slowness of growth of one of my projects (something I’m sure many bloggers can relate to).
After tweeting I went on with my day – only hours realising that the tweet had stimulated a number of interesting responses – mainly via Direct Message.
A few of the DM’s were quite heartfelt with one reader following up with a long email where she opened up quite a bit about not only her blog but personal circumstances.
My tweets get their fair share of retweets, likes and replies but something in this one had touched a nerve and drew a bigger response than my normal tweets.
Tina responded publically:
@problogger That is exactly what I needed to hear 😉 – thanks!
— Tina B. (@tmsb73) March 23, 2016
She went on to write:
@problogger This is a new adventure for me – still learning the basics, so encouragement like that keeps me moving forward. 😉
— Tina B. (@tmsb73) March 23, 2016
I’ve pondered this tweet and the disproportionate response that it got for the last few days.
Why is it that on my ProBlogger Twitter account – which is 98% directly on the topic of blogging – that my tweets that go a little off topic get the biggest response?
2 Types of Needs Your Readers Have
Here’s what I think is happening.
Most people come to ProBlogger with a need that is quite tangible.
- They want help setting up a blog.
- They need more traffic.
- They have a technical challenge.
- They want to learn a technique to help them with their social media.
These specific, tangible needs or problems are what generally drive people to this blog. I can see this because the search results people type into Google clearly show it.
These needs are easy to define and express and in many ways they are external needs. Things that are about my readers blogs… not about them personally.
But there’s another deeper set of internal needs and problems that I’ve noticed readers of ProBlogger have. These can be a bit harder to spot but when I get to know my readers I notice them.
They are needs like this:
- I’m frustrated that I’m not getting results
- I’m fearful that I look stupid
- I’m worried that I’m wasting my time
- I’m struggling with confidence
- I’m concerned about if I have what it takes to be successful
These more internal needs are often a little more hidden.
We don’t tend to go searching on Google for solutions to them… partly because we don’t like to admit that they are there but also because they are harder to articulate.
But they are there inside most of us.
People Come to Have their External Problems Solved… But they Stay When You Meet their Internal Needs
I suspect most bloggers could come up with similar lists of external and internal needs or problems of their readers.
My suspicion is that people come to your blog looking for solutions to their external needs so solving these is important but if that’s all you do you’ll only ever go so far with building your blog.
It’s when you address both the external and internal needs of your readers that the magic starts to happen.
When you address the internal needs of your readers the connection they feel with you and your blog forms faster, goes deeper and lasts longer.
Perhaps another way to express this is that readers come to your blog to have their external problems solved… but they stay when you address their internal needs.
What does this Mean In Practice?
So how do we take this idea and put it into practice in our blogging?
I’m not sure there is any one way to do it but two thoughts come to mind.
1. Mix Up Your Types of Posts
If you have a blog that is predominantly a teaching blog (like mine here at ProBlogger and at Digital Photography School) you’re probably spending most of your time writing about external problems.
From time to time throw in a post that is purely addressing an internal problem.
For example: a couple of years ago I wrote a post here on ProBlogger on the topic of dealing with Fear. I’ve since done a podcast and livestream on similar topics. All of these posts generated an amazing response.
In a similar way my podcast where I talked about my health journey, weight loss, diet and a variety of other personal things has been one of my most listened to podcasts.
2. Create Content that Addresses Both Needs
It isn’t always practical to have posts that go ‘off topic’ into more personal ‘inner’ focused topics. I know if I did this on ProBlogger too often that while some readers wouldn’t mind that it could put off other readers.
So a better solution is to create content that addresses both needs.
This is something I want to do more in my own content and will be encouraging my writers to do too.
It might be as simple as starting a practical teaching post with a story that reveals your own feelings, experience, failings, insecurities with the topic.
For example I was speaking with one blogger recently who writes tips on how to raise kids well. Her posts were quite clinical and practical in the way that she wrote.
The headline and opening line would state what problem the post would solve (always an ‘external problem’ like ‘my kid is angry’ or ‘my child wets his bed’ or ‘m child is being bullied’) and then the blog post would give practical tips on how to solve the problem.
The blogger told me that she was ranking ok in Google but that she got very few comments and hardly any subscribers.
I encouraged her to experiment with starting each post in a more personal tone to establish a connection with her audience before giving the tips.
She began to share a story (either from her own personal experience or a client) at the start of each post. Most of the stories identified not only the tangible problem that the post would address but also other internal feeling that parents have (self doubt, worry about the future, confidence issues etc).
The results were amazing and instantaneous.
- Comment numbers increased from 1-2 per post to 10-20 per post.
- Weekly email subscriber numbers increased by 105%
- The number of people sharing her content at least doubled
- Within a month she had doubled her monthly unique reader numbers
- The number of emails the blogger received increased and the nature of them was more personal
- The rate that the blog drove new clients to the bloggers business increased
To be clear – 90% of the post didn’t change. They remained practical, clinical and actionable but they were framed better and readers responded.
Are You Addressing Your Readers Internal Needs?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Are you a blogger who focusses mainly on the external needs of your readers? Could you tweak your approach to address some of the internal ones too?
Or perhaps you’re a blogger who has the opposite problem – it strikes me that maybe there are bloggers whose main focus is writing about the internal needs of their readers who could potentially benefit from writing about some more external problems too.
Either way – I’d love to hear how this post connects with you and to hear about your experiences and even to see some examples of the content that you’ve created that relates to this topic.