This morning, MSNBC was on the television in the background as I was doing some work, and Oprah was one of the guests on Morning Joe. I wasn’t really paying attention to the interview, but I did catch something that she said that made me want to shout, “YES!” She was talking about why she became so successful and why she has been so successful for so long. I didn’t jot it down word for word, but it essentially boiled down to this:
Oprah is her audience. More so than even her produces or other staff members, she is able to put herself in the shoes of her audience members, so she can give them what they want. Above all, if you want to be successful, you have to know your viewer.
Pretty good advice, right? I would go a step farther and say that you have to be your viewer (or, in the case of bloggers, reader). If you wouldn’t read your content, if you find it boring and repetitive, if you are left with feelings of “meh,” why should anyone else care?
For a long time, one of the mistakes I made as a blogger was that I tried to emulate other successful blogs, even though these were blogs that I didn’t necessarily read for whatever reason. I wrote posts that were certainly informative and sometimes even interesting, but they lacked passion and style – and that showed. I wasn’t interested in being a member of my own community, so others weren’t really interested either.
So I took a good look at my blog and thought, “What would I want to read if I came to this blog?” And I started writing that, even though it was personal and goofy and unlike what a lot of the more successful blogs in my niche were doing, I’ve seen more growth since taking this approach in a month than I had in the six months prior combined. I became a member of my audience, and suddenly, I actually had an audience.
I think this can be difficult to do, since what is most relevant in our own lives is…well…our own lives. Sometimes, bloggers tend to get too personal. This is where I think Oprah reigns it in well where other talk show hosts *cough*Tyra-Banks*cough* fail. Oprah does tell her personal story when relevant, but she doesn’t lose site of the point of her show – to help the viewer and guests. She doesn’t just get up on a stage every day and talk about her herself. If you want to do that, have a hobby blog. But on your tech blog or your political blog or your fashion blog, we don’t need to know that your kid is sick and you’re planning on having tuna for lunch. Otherwise, you may be a member of your own audience, but you’ll be the only member!
Still, it pays to take some time to read your own blog and ask yourself this question: “If I didn’t write this, would I be a regular reader?” It’s a hard question to answer sometimes, because we don’t want to admit that the answer is no. Think about how successful Oprah has become, though. She might not be a blogger, but she certainly understands community and building a following. If her biggest piece of advice for success is “become a member of your own audience,” I’m going to take it!
Photo: Alan Light