The Goose and the Gander Want Different Things: A Lesson About Helping Your Readers

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!”

Growing up, we had a sign in our kitchen that read, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s the same as the goose-gander message: a woman who is unhappy can make the life of her partner a living hell, so if you’re a man who wants to be happy, step one is pleasing your wife/girlfriend.

Too many bloggers consider themselves the goose in the blogger-reader relationship. In actuality, us bloggers are the gander.

In other words, just because something is good for you doesn’t mean it is good for your readers, and you should always be considering their needs first.

A great example of this is the idea of removing dates from your blog posts, which I recently wrote about on the NMX blog. Time after time, I see bloggers talking about how removing dates has increased their stats. But you know what? It’s annoying. As a reader, I am cranky when I can’t see when a post is written because I don’t know how to tell if the opinions or facts in the post are outdated or not.

Another example? Pop up advertisements. There isn’t a single person out there you likes them. Yet many bloggers use them because the conversion rates are so good.

You are not the goose. You are the gander. Your job is to keep your readers happy, even if the stats tempt you to put into place practices that your readers hate. Long-term, it’s not worth it. Remember, numbers don’t always tell you the full story. For every new click you get because your posts are dateless, what if three-long term readers stop linking to you? What if your pop up ad leads to conversions on an individual level, but those people decide not to share your post because they don’t want to annoy their followers with the ad?

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Make them happy and you’ll be happy too in the long run.

You’re Responsible if Your Community is Full of Jerks

The other day, I was thinking about how nice it is to write in niches like food and social media, where people are generally nice to one another. Sure these community have the occasional troll just like any community does, but in general, people are respectful. They disagree sometimes, but the drama is kept to a minimum. This is drastically different than a previous niche where I wrote (gaming) which seemed to be full of immature assholes who got off on ruining others’ days.

Some niches are just like that.

Or are they?

As I thought about it more, I realized that although some niches naturally have more trolls than others (you’re going to find more disrespectful comments on a game or celebrity blog than you are on a finance blog in most cases), I am the leader and ultimately the person responsible for my community.

When I wrote for the gaming blog, I would often pen feature pieces filled with opinion. I was aggressive and snarky, the same way lots of game bloggers are, because people responded to that style. One of the most popular pieces I wrote on the site was a post called, “No, I Won’t Have Sex With You,” which was about how annoying it is to just want to play a game online and have guys try to hit on your simply because you’re female. The tone of the post was accusing and even borderline mean.

I don’t apologize for this; it was a good post. But what kind of readers did that post attract?

Furthermore, rather than shut down any bullies or trolls that commented on that post, we rode the wave of popularity. Each increasingly vile comment or attack would lead to more comments and links and traffic. We allowed the negativity to thrive. We created that community.

Now again, the gaming niche is already full of jerks more so than other niches, but as the blogger, I have to take responsibility for creating a community where they were welcome. Myself and the co-founders of this blog could have shut it down. The post wouldn’t have been nearly so popular, but we could have moderated comments or stepped in to the conversation to make it clear that disrespect would not be tolerated. We did not.

So ultimately, we had to be responsible for the community of jerks we created.

Think about that when you are writer and when you are creating comment policies for your blog. Having a negative community like that is certainly a valid option. Some very popular blogs like Perez Hilton thrive on negativity. But then don’t complain when your community isn’t about kum-bi-ya, rainbows, and unicorns.

My life is much happier since we closed the doors at that gaming blog and I truly think that one of the reasons why is that I don’t have that negativity in my life anymore. For me, allowing the trolls room to flourish on my blog was not worth the stress. At the time, I blamed them, but ultimately it was my fault for shaping that community to be what it was.

What are you shaping your community to be?

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Five Kick Ass Community Tips for New Bloggers

As you build your blog, you’ll also start to build a community. Community, in the beginning, means that you have a group of cheerleaders, people who believe in what you’re doing and care about your message. Blog zombies tend to ignore their community, but if you cultivate it, you can actually use your fans to build you blog faster. So here are my top five tips for new bloggers regarding their community:

1. Get to know your fans.

When you’re a blogger like Chris Brogan, you can’t possible get to know every person who leaves a comment on your blog or retweets one of your links. There aren’t enough hours in the day. But when you’re just starting out, you’re only going to have a handful of dedicated readers. Get to know them. Say hello. Visit their blogs. You don’t have to become fans in return, but you can at least take the time to reply to them on Twitter.

2. Reply to comments.

I used to be of the mindset “only reply to comments if you have something to say.” I’ve amended that idea a bit. I still think that it only hurts your community if you leave useless comments like “Thanks for reading!” as responses, but I think you should work hard to try to have something to say in reply to everyone. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but replying to comments shows new readers (and potential community members) that you’re listening.

3. Highlight your community members in posts.

People love to feel special. When someone writes an especially good comment on your blog or a social network, use it as a jumping off point for a blog post of your own, linking back to the original inspiration of course. When you highlight community members, you’ll telling them that you’re happy they’re invested in the success of your site.

4. Ask for advice.

Your community will feel needed if you take a moment to ask for their advice or opinions. Shoot out a question on Twitter. Create a poll on Facebook. Ask for advice via blog comments. Give your community a way to get vocal.

5. Stay active.

When you’re building a new community, staying active by posting regularly, interacting every day via social media, and answering your emails promptly is important. Someone who has a huge fan base might be able to get away with posting only once every month or so, but for new bloggers, that typically doesn’t work well. You have to stay on the forefront of their minds so you become a fixture there, not something that’s easily forgotten.

Your turn – what are your best community tips for beginners? Or, if you’re a newbie yourself, what are your biggest community frustrations?

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I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

I’ve been working on a pretty big video project for BlogWorld Expo. Yesterday, I had the *fun* task of contacting people to ask for their help reading the script. I put asterisks around the word fun because I wanted to show that it’s dripping with sarcasm. In reality, it should probably be ********fun******** because one of the things I hate most is emailing or calling people and asking for favors. It’s a step up from a sales job. Yuck.

I had to email both people I knew personally and some big names in my industry who I don’t know personally. I think I was more nervous to email my friends and acquaintances, believe it or not.

But you know what? Most people said yes. Cue music. “I get byyyyyyyyy with a little heeeeeelp from my friennnnnnds…”

I absolutely hate when people talk about leveraging their relationships. It’s one thing to make money from your readers and customers. It’s another thing to build a friendship with someone simply because you want them to do something for you. I’m always nervous that people will think that’s my game. It’s not – I promise!

Being part of BlogWorld, I see it all the time. In person, it’s super awkward. You see someone pestering an a-lister, who is probably polite, even though they don’t know this nut job fan…and then part-way through the conversation, just when the a-lister in question begins to let down their guard, actually think “Hey, this might be someone I want to get to know,” they get hit below the belt.

Come check out my blog where I write posts that are basically rewrites of the same topics you write. I would love for you to tweet my link even though you’ve never read it because I swear it’s good for your followers. You should be an affiliate of my shitty ebook that no one wants. I’m going to email you about potential JV projects every other day for the next three months, okay?!?! LIKE ME! DO STUFF FOR ME!

If the entire reason you’re friends with someone is that they can help you somehow, news flash: the two of you are not really friends and you’re probably an asshole.

People are willing to help me because (I hope) they know that’s not what it’s about for me. When I need a favor, there’s no pressure for them to say yes to maintain our friendship. If they say no, for whatever reason, we’re still cool. And oddly enough, I think that makes people more likely to say yes.

If your relationship with another person is all about how you can help one another, that’s fine. Just don’t pretend it’s something else. Do some mutual back-scratching, and move on.

I say it all the time: Be good to the people in your life. Care about them, love them, and stay in touch with them, even if they can’t help you. Like people because you like them, not because you can leverage your relationship. When you stop worrying about your own end game and just focus on getting to know people, you’ll be surprised just how awesome your life becomes, both personally and professionally.

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Please, Let Me Unsubscribe

Recently, I attended a free virtual event about publishing. In order to sign up, I had to give away my email address, so I knew I’d be added to an event email list. That’s the name of the game. And really, I did want emails from them, at least leading up to the event. I like to be kept in the loop.

The event wasn’t my thing in the end. It was a well-organized event; it just wasn’t for me.

I continued to get emails after the event ended, mostly about future events and partner events. That’s okay. I expected that from the organizers, and if I had liked their event, I probably would have been happy to continue receiving emails. But, since I have no intention of ever participating again, I decided to unsubscribe. And that’s where I ran into problems.

See, when they collected my email address, they didn’t just add me to a main list. They added me to all of their lists, and in order to stop receiving emails, I have to unsubscribe to all of them. Separately.

What the fuck.

I’ve been trying to unsubscribe from these damn lists for over three weeks now. Every time I think I’m good, I get another stupid email about their stupid events. I’ve unsubscribe to at least ten lists at this point. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

It’s shady at best to add me to so many lists without a clear way to unsubscribe to all of them at once. The way they did it was very smart, because they have it set up so that you only get one email every few days, even though you’re on all the lists. As soon as you unsubscribe from one, another that’s been dormant kicks in.

News flash: I DON’T WANT TO GO TO FUTURE EVENTS.

This company is like a crazy ex who is stalking me. I’m not going to take you back. You’re lucky that I don’t have a restraining order. Yet.

I’m not going to have a sudden change of mind. In fact, all this is doing is pissing me off more and more. Even though the event itself wasn’t for me, I was happy to recommend to it people who I thought could benefit from it. At first. Now? I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because I find the constant sales emails so annoying. I’m pretty sure that their goal isn’t to annoy people to the point where they speak badly about their events.

The moral of the story here is that unsubscribes suck, but you have to make it easy for people. Anyone who wants to unsubscribe isn’t a valuable list member anyway, since they aren’t likely to click your links, read your blog, buy your products, or promote your services. They’re just a useless number, not part of your community. So let them go!

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Why LiveJournal Wasn’t So Bad

Ah, the days of LiveJounral and Xanga. I actually think those blogging platforms are still around, at least in some form. They gave bloggers a voice, a way to vent online. We blogged out little hearts out, no rhyme or reason – we just said whatever was on our minds. It was blogging chaos!

And yet…

I’ve been nostalgic about the earlier days of blogging (remember my lament about the lack of blogrolls last week?). We didn’t know how to monetize at all, but we weren’t doing it for money. We were just connection with friends and, later, strangers who shared similar interested even though they lived half-way around the world. It was beautiful. I remember the first time I got a comment from someone I didn’t know. I thought it was weird that some random person cared what I had to say…but I was also super excited. Someone cared.

I’ve never been someone who is the life of the party. My circle of friends is small, and I easily get lonely. Blogging opened a whole new world for me, where I didn’t have to be afraid of my social anxiety holding me back. I could be an introvert and that was okay, because I could still connect with people and share my ideas.

Today, I think a lot of bloggers have gotten away from that spark, that passion to share ideas and meet amazing, interesting, fabulous people who you would never meet otherwise. We’re focused so much on the next big money-making project that we forget that sometimes, blogging is just pure joy because you get to connect. It doesn’t have to go farther than that. There doesn’t have to be an ROI to our relationship. Making money is great, but people are even better.

You want ROI? I love my job as a blogger. And that’s priceless, isn’t it?

The days of LiveJournal weren’t so bad. I hope we can get back to that mindset, at least a little. I don’t like feeling like we’re back in high school, where you only want to be my friend because I have the homework answers. Let’s just be friends, period. And it sounds a little cheesy and idealistic, but if we stop thinking with dollar signs 100% of the time, maybe we can work together to change the world.

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If There’s Mud On Your Face, Stop Smearing It Around Like the Village Idiot

The alternative title to this post is “Duh.”

I have a girly blog crush on Jenny Lawson, otherwise known as The Bloggess. This is probably not the last time you’ll see me writing about her. Her blog is my obsession. But not in a creepy, show-up-outside-your-home, heavy-breathing stalker way. In a totally *cool* awkward girl way. But I digress. Yesterday, she posted this gem: And then the PR guy called me “a fucking bitch”. I can’t even make this shit up.

Basically, she sent a cheeky response to a totally off-base PR company request and the VP accidentally hit reply all and included her on an email where he called her a fucking bitch. Seriously. Oh, whoops, I was supposed to say “spoiler alert” huh? Well, spoiler alert, that’s what her post is about. But go read it anyway, because she actually posts his responses. And that’s where shit gets real.

Dude messed up. Big time. But instead of apologizing like a decent human being should, he defends himself and suggests that they both just laugh it off. Wow. I mean, at this point, both the foul-mouth offender and his boss have apologized, but only because Jenny’s powerful Twitter network (including Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman *nerdgasm*) backed her up. It was a long day at that PR company, I’m sure.

There’s an important lesson in here for bloggers, in my opinion. For human beings actually:

You’re going to mess up. You’re going to make horrible mistakes that have you chewing on your own foot. You’re going to say and do things you regret. These are facts. It’s not about the mistakes you make, though. It’s about how you handle it afterward.

Like the title of this post says, if there’s mud on your face, stop acting like the village idiot and smearing it around. When you make a mistake, apologize. It’s as simple as that. You have to eat poo sometimes, because sometimes you are at fault. And even if you think your actions were justified, if you’ve hurt something else, it is not okay. When you defend yourself or try to justify your actions, you just make matters worse.

Is it worth it? Rarely is the answer yes. Had that PR guy simply emailed her back and apologized profusely for his lack of professionalism, I highly doubt that Jenny would have posted about it on her blog. Sure, it’s still a crappy thing to do, but the fact of the matter is that people make mistakes. That’s why online forgiveness is so important. Instead of that route, however, he choose the route that led to this situation reaching over TWO MILLION PEOPLE.

Dudes. I hope he went home and said a prayer for his job.

Admit your mistakes and learn to say you’re sorry. That’s what this post boils down to. There’s no cheeky zombie-related tie-in because you don’t need me to tell you that zombies don’t apologize for any of the bs they pull. So go out there and be better than that. Admit and apologize. If you can do those two things, the rest of this blogging thang is cake.

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Online Forgiveness is Okay

I’ve always been the type of girl to hold a grudge. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve been that way since I was a little girl. I get really emotional when someone offends me, perhaps because it takes a lot for me to get to that point. I’m quick to talk about the actions I don’t like, but it’s hard for me to not like people. I believe in the benefit of the doubt. So, if I don’t like someone, there’s probably a really emotional reason why.

And I’ve always had a hard time letting those types of things go. I’m stubborn like that.

It’s something I’m actively working on about myself, and I think working on being about to forgive people isn’t just something that will help me personally, but it will also help me be a better blogger.

What I’m quickly finding out is that holding grudges holds you back in a professional sense. People suck – they’re selfish and mean and dramatic and greedy and ill-advised. Yes, people definitely suck. So do you. I’m not an especially religious person, but the phrase “let he without sin cast the first stone” comes to mind here. I do things that suck all the time, sometimes even purposely because it’s easier or better for me. It’s not something I like to admit, and it’s definitely not okay, but that’s human nature. And I’m still a good person. At least, I try to be.

I’m working on recognizing that in other people.

I’d like to give you an example, and although I’m a huge proponent of naming name, I’m going to avoid it in this instance because I don’t want to speak badly about this person because of something that happened privately. So let me tell you the story:

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