Last night, I attended the keynote address for Blogging Success Summit 2011, an online event being organized jointly by BlogWorld and Social Media Examiner founder Michael Stelzner. The speaker was Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, and his presentation was on the state of the blogosphere. He talked about how blogging has changed since 2008, the trends he sees continuing in 2011, and more – and for me, it was really interesting to see a statistical breakdown of what people read and how people share information.
Technorati publishes a report on the state of the blogosphere every year, and it is definitely recommended reading for anyone hoping to make money online. But I want to suggest that you take it a step farther and do your own annual study. What’s the state of your blogosphere?
See, what makes the Technorati study great is that they poll tons of people from around the world and across every industry to get their results. That’s also its downfall, though. If you’re someone who blogs about social media, your audience might think slightly different from the audience of a blog about fashion, and both of you might have readers who differ from the general public represented in the Technorati study. While few bloggers have the ability to poll thousands of people from across the world in an official, controlled study, that doesn’t mean you can examine your piece of the blogosphere and use the results to increase the effectiveness of your blog.
The Power of Many
You aren’t in this alone. Although every blog has a slightly different audience, there are probably blogs in your niche that have a very similar audience to your own. Team up to do your study! If you send out a survey to your mailing list or post it on your blog you might get, say, 10% to respond. But if 10 bloggers do it and you all get 10% to respond, you’ll have a large group represented. Doing a study of your audience’s habits and needs only benefits you has a blogger, so there’s really no reason for your peers not to jump on board if you approach them with this proposal.
So, ok, it’s a good idea to poll your audience – but what do you ask?
While some of the questions you ask might be specific to your niche, it makes sense to ask a ton of more general questions, like the ones found in the Technorati report (or similar to the ones found in the Technorati report).
- Do your users use social media? What are their favorite sites?
- How many of your readers are bloggers themselves?
- Do your readers feel that blogs are as trustworthy as traditional media like newspapers?
- How many of your readers use feed readers?
- How many of your readers subscribe to their favorite blogs via email?
- Do you readers get email newsletters?
- How likely are your readers to comment on a blog post they like?
Asking these questions might produce some eye-opening results. For example, maybe over half of your readers prefer Facebook over Twitter, and you don’t even have a Facebook page. Or maybe most of your readers prefer receiving email newsletters, but you don’t offer one. Or maybe very few of your readers use YouTube, yet you’ve been concentrating on making videos. This list is, of course, just a small sampling of the questions you can ask, but by keeping them general, you can adjust what you’re doing as a blogger rather than focusing only on what you’re doing in relation to your niche.
The Dreaded Essay Question
If you want to get people to respond, you have to either 1) offer some kind of prize, discount, or giveaway for those who answer the questions or 2) keep it short and simple. Usually, it pays to do both.
But, at the end, I’m a big fan of having an option essay question. People who are in a hurry can skip it, but your most voal audience members will respond. What should you ask them?
Be pointed (if you just say “Any comments?” people won’t know what to write), but give them the chance to talk without having to be too specific with an answer. Ask what frustrates them about blogs, what they love about blogs, and what they wish to see in the blogs they read. Their answers won’t be something you can chart on graph paper, in most cases, but reading these comments can give you a better understand of what your readers are thinking. Sometimes that’s better than percentages and charts.
Sharing is Caring
After you compile the results, share them! Don’t just share them with the other bloggers who participated. Post them on your blog or create a downloadable report so that others can see the state of your blogosphere. Part of what I loved about the Blogging Success Summit 2011 keynote is that Richard was so open and willing to share the results. Undoubtedly, Technorati does these reports because they benefit their company, but the blogging community is all in this together. Sharing results makes the entire blogosphere stronger.
Will I see you at future Blogging Success Summit 2011 presentations? There’s still time to sign up to participate, and you’ll get recordings of any presentations you may have already missed!