As a blogger, you get a huge amount of feedback every day – and that can be a good thing or a bad one, depending on how you look at.
A lot of the time, of course, feedback is really helpful: it lets you know what you’re doing right, where you’re going wrong and – if you’re lucky – what you can do to improve your blog. Other times, though, feedback can just be incredibly confusing. One person tells you one thing, someone else tells you the exact opposite: how do you know who’s telling the truth, and who you can trust? Good question. Here are some of my answers to it…
Identify your target audience
One of my favourite quotes is this one, from Dita Von Teese:
“You could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world… but there’ll always be someone who hates peaches.”
What I take from this is that you have to know who you’re writing for – and who you’re NOT writing for. If you’re trying to please absolutely everyone, then that’s obviously not going to work, is it? If you’re trying to reach people who hate peaches, meanwhile (er, assuming that your blog is the “peach” in this situation…), then THAT’S not going to work either. All of that stands to reason: the problem you’re going to have as a blogger, though (or just as a human being), is that sometimes the people who hate peaches will read your blog anyway: and they’ll want to give you “feedback” on it.
Every so often, for instance, I’ll get an email or comment from someone telling me my blog posts are WAY too long, and that I should learn to edit, basically. “Your blog would be so much cooler if you wrote less,” someone told me recently. Ouch.
At first, I used to really take this kind of feedback to heart. I’d start writing short, to-the-point posts… which I didn’t really enjoy writing, but if that was what people wanted, I guessed that was what I should do. Almost immediately, I started getting comments from people telling me they missed the long posts: that those were what had brought them to the blog in the first place, and now that I’d stopped writing them, my blog was just the same as everyone else’s. “I hardly ever read your blog now,” someone tweeted me. “Because it’s just all photos, and I liked the writing.” Again: ouch.
It’s pretty obvious here that I can’t please everyone with this one: some people like reading long posts, some people hate them. I could try writing medium-length posts, I suppose, but that wouldn’t please EITHER group, would it? The short-post people would still think the posts were too long, and the long-post lovers would think they were too short. So, in the end, I had to work out who my ideal audience really is: who am I writing for?
In my case, what I realised is that I like writing long posts. It’s kind of my USP. When I write a long post, you know that I was genuinely really interested in what I was writing about, and that’s the kind of writing I want to do. Not the short, snappy, “Here is an outfit, I hope you like it,” kind of writing, but the long, meandering, “here’s something I’ve been thinking about, and I want to explore it in a bit more depth,” kind.
I’m writing for the type of people who ALSO like that kind of writing. I’m not saying my posts aren’t ever too long, and that they couldn’t use a bit of editing: of course they could. What I AM saying, though, is that if you’re here looking for short, snappy, straight-to-the-point text, you’re in the wrong place. You’re more than welcome to stick around anyway, of course, but you’re probably always going to leave disappointed, because I’m not writing with you in mind. There are lots of blogs out there which publish very short posts: this isn’t one of them.
Get a second opinion
So, you know you can’t trust the feedback of the people who hate peaches. But who CAN you trust to tell you the truth about your blog?
This is a tricky one, because most of the people who give you feedback on the internet are completely anonymous to you. You have no idea whether their opinion should be taken seriously (That person criticising your outfit could have the worst taste you’ve ever seen), or even what their intentions are. Sure, some people are genuinely trying to help you when they comment critically, but there’s no getting away from the fact that some are just out to hurt you, and they’ll say anything they think will achieve that aim – whether it’s true or not.
For me, the only way around this is to get a second opinion from people I KNOW I can trust.
When it comes to outfits, I trust my mum to tell me the truth – because not only do I trust her taste, I also trust her motivation. If my mum tells me something doesn’t fit properly, for instance, I know she’s not telling me in order to have a jab at my weight, or because she thinks I need “taking down a peg”: just as importantly, I also know she won’t lie just to try to flatter me, so she’s a trustworthy second opinion on all things style-related.
For everything else, meanwhile, there’s Terry. His personality is much more laid back than mine is: he’s very objective, very rational (sometimes annoyingly so: I mean, there are times when you really just want to rant, aren’t there?), and tends to give people the benefit of the doubt. When I get a comment that upsets me, I normally run it by Terry before responding to it: he’ll tell me if he thinks I’m reading too much into it, if the person has a point, or if he thinks they’re just being mean. As with my mum, I know Terry won’t won’t just agree with me to spare my feelings, so if he tells me a comment is out of line, I know it must be pretty bad – and if he tells me I’m just over-reacting, I know
he’s totally wrong that’s probably true, too. Unfortunately.
Know what you want to achieve
Finally, I think one of the most important things you can do as a blogger is work out what you want to achieve from it. Do you want to make friends, and have an outlet for your writing/photography/whatever? Or do you want to have a business that earns you a living? Those two aims aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive obviously, but identifying your end goal will affect how you deal with the feedback you receive. As a blogger, I obviously want to please my readers and try to keep them happy: as a businesswoman, however, I know it’s not possible to please everyone, and that sometimes what works best for the blog/business might not work for every single reader.
Every few weeks, for instance, I’ll get at least one comment or email from someone complaining about a technical aspect of my website: this doesn’t work, that doesn’t work, I don’t like this, I’d prefer it if it was like that… it goes right down to people telling me they don’t like the fonts I’ve used, or the colour of my logo, or whatever. Some of these complaints are obviously totally justified, and it’s important that I know about them, because they help me identify things that are broken, and which need to be fixed. Other things, however, are just personal taste, which have absolutely no effect on the way the site functions whatsoever: I know this sounds blunt, but whether or not someone likes the font I used in my logo or not is completely irrelevant to me – it’s feedback, yes, but it’s not HELPFUL feedback, because it doesn’t affect the way the site functions. If you’re telling me you can’t read the font, that’s helpful: just telling me you don’t like it, because you think sans-serif fonts are prettier, however? That doesn’t actually help: in fact, it’s more likely to hinder me, because can you imagine what it would be like if every single reader chimed in to tell me which font THEY’D like best?
Similarly, if someone tells me they don’t like something about the way the site functions but I know that functionality is ultimately bringing in more visitors, it would be pretty silly of me to change it just because ONE person didn’t like it. Readers will tell me their personal preferences, and I’ll always do my best to accommodate them if I can. My site analytics however, will give me a totally unbiased view of what works and what doesn’t: and as my blog is a business, THAT’S the information I have to put my trust in.