Blogging From the Heart and Soul
I had a recent meetup with two local bloggers and they both said that they wanted to give up blogging. They each had different reasons for wanting to give up their blogs and different reasons for starting their blogs. Their blogging strategies were also opposites.
Blogger #1 was under the impression that all she needed to do is blog from the heart and everything else will take care of itself. I could relate to this, because that is how I started out. I just wanted to express myself.
She had been blogging from the heart and telling her story, but she hadn’t built an audience, and didn’t have any sustainable opportunities coming her way.
Blogger #2 had been told that to have a successful blog all he needed to do was follow a formula. He had been in a program that said that great content, plus good branding, proper ad placement, SEO, following a social media formula, and creating clickbait titles, all combined with good design would lead to blogging success.
He followed the formula, but his blog had no heart and soul. It was built with clinical precision.
I would argue that it is possible to blog smart while still blogging from the heart. Today I am going to talk about blogging from the heart, and next episode I will talk about smart blogging strategies.
In Today’s Episode 7 Different Ways to Blog from the Heart
- Be passionate – blog with passion
- Tell stories – storytelling is the number one thing we can do to build deeper connections with our readers
- Build community – people want to contribute and belong and connect
- Create inspirational content – inspire your readers with ideas of what could be
- Be personal – we have all of these amazing tools that allow us to connect on a personal level through different mediums like podcasting and video
- Be playful – use humor to surprise and delight your audience, share hobbies and passions
- Create content that changes lives and makes the world a better place – it should be your desire to change your readers lives for the better
Further Resources on Blogging from the Heart
- Episode 80: What to Write When You Feel Like You’ve Got Nothing Left to Say
- Episode 81: 14 Types of Stories You Can Tell On Your Blog
Hi there. Welcome to Episode 102 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse. You can find today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/102 where you’ll find some further reading on today’s topic, the topic being how to blog from the heart.
I recently had a conversation with two bloggers. It was a meetup that I’d arranged with these two local bloggers who are both saying that they wanted to give up blogging. It was a fascinating conversation because they both came from completely different perspectives. Both were thinking about giving up blogging because they had very different reasons for doing it. In fact, their reasons to stop blogging were quite different as well. The whole strategy of building their two blogs were almost opposite.
Blogger one—I’m not going to reveal who these bloggers are—but blogger one had had this attitude when she started her blog that all she needed to do was to blog from the heart and the rest would look after itself. She’d heard from other bloggers that that’s what you needed to do. “Just bog from your heart. Just tell your story. Just be yourself and opportunities will come to you to build a profitable blog.” That’s the attitude that she’d had.
I related to this particular blog because that’s the way I started out. I just blogged from the heart, I didn’t even know that you could make money from blogs. I started back in 2002. I think many bloggers probably relate to that. They just want to blog because they want to express themselves. And then there are other bloggers more recently who hear these amazing stories of bloggers who built successful blogs by just blogging from the heart and think that’s all they have to do.
This blogger had done that for two years. She just blogged from the heart. She just told her story over and over again and shared on that very personal level for two years. Unfortunately, opportunities had never come. She actually had not really built much of an audience and certainly had not been able to build any sustainable way of keeping that blog going in terms of profit.
It’s interesting, the other blogger who is at this particular coffee that we’re having was thinking of giving up blogging for a completely different reason. He started blogging for a very different as well, with a different strategy. He had been told that all you need to do to have a successful blog is to follow a formula. He’d actually been given a formula by someone selling a program on how to blog. I can’t remember the exact formula, but went something like this: great content + good branding + putting ads in the right spot + search engine optimization + following these three formulas with your social media + writing clickbait-y titles + good design = successful blogging. He actually showed me this formula. He printed it out and brought it to coffee. I don’t really know the person who sold this formula to him, I do know that it cost him $500 for this training.
But the struggle that he’d had is that he had followed the formula to the letter. He’d done everything that he’d been trained to do but ended up with a blog that ticked all the boxes in some ways, but had no heart, it had no soul. It was very clinical. It was stuffed with lots of keywords and it was written for search engine optimization. There was no heart to it, there was no soul to it.
Blogger number two worked on all of the right things. By the right things, I mean, according to the formula. But the blog really was built with clinical precision, but no soul. Blogger number one had that great heartfelt blog, but nobody was reading it. They’d built it on heart, but there was no real strategy there.
What I want to talk about today and in the next episode is, how do you actually bring these two things together. I want to argue that you can blog from the heart, but still blog smart, still blog with strategy. Most of the bloggers that I’ve come across over the last 13 years who have had ongoing success with their blogs, who have built sustainable, profitable blogs. In the long term I have done a bit of both. They’ve blogged from the heart, but they’ve also had some strategy.
What I want to talk about today in today’s episode is how to blog from the heart. I don’t want this to sit separate from the next episode which is going to be about how to blog smart. Today, I want to suggest to you seven different ways that you can blog from the heart. This is particularly for those of you who have perhaps a blog that is following a formula, that is perhaps a little clinical, that lacks a little soul like a blog or two.
Perhaps you have been taught a formula and maybe the formula has worked out to some degree but you’ve ended up with a blog that doesn’t really have much heart and that maybe that’s what’s missing from your blog. In two days’ time, the next episode, episode 103, I want to suggest to you around nine different strategies that you might want to think about—if you’ve been blogging from the heart but you haven’t been thinking strategically about your blog.
That’s where we’re headed with these two episodes, but today, I just want to focus upon this area of blogging from the heart. By no means am I saying this is all you need to do. It needs to be held with the next episode as well. These are seven or so different things that I would encourage you to do if your blog is perhaps a little clinical. The first one is passion—blog with passion. I’m not going to spend a whole heap of time on each of these points. I kind of just want to move through them and somewhere amidst them all hopefully, will be some answers for those of you who need to add a bit more heart to your blog.
Passion, I think, is very important. Passion is infectious. It actually is something that your readers pick up on quite incredibly. I love that quote and I think I’ve mentioned it before, once in this podcast before from Robert Frost. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer and no surprise in the reader.” Robert there is talking about putting passion into your writing.
If you want your readers to have passion towards your blog and towards the things that you are writing about, you need to start that off, you need to set that culture as part of your blog. Blog with passion. Blog about things that are meaningful to you. Blog about things that you feel strongly about and that will come out in your writing. That will give your blog heart.
Number two, something we’ve talked about numerous times on this podcast before—tell stories. Storytelling is perhaps the number one thing I think we can do as bloggers to build deeper connections with our readers, to create heartfelt content. Your story is what makes your content unique. It adds heart to your blog. It creates memories in and connections with your readers.
I talk about this in episode 80 and 81 of this particular podcast. I think in 81, we talked about 14 different types of stories that you can tell on your blog. Go back and listen to that episode, 81. Commit to telling at least one story a week on your blog.
I remember the time on Digital Photography School when we told the story of an organization here in Australia that goes into hospitals—photographers who go into hospitals and who take photos of really traumatic times in families’ lives. It’s an organization called Heartfelt. We told the story of one family who tragically lost a baby and how this organization was already going and created some beautiful portraits of that baby and her family, portraits that helped that family through the grieving process.
That particular post touched our readers like no other. One, it was on a heartfelt topic but I think it was a story that was told that really impacted people the most. Digital Photography School is 99.9% a blog full of tutorials. It’s a blog full of information, but by occasionally throwing in and seasoning that blog and those tutorials with a story, a heartfelt story, was a very powerful thing.
Many of our readers tell us about that particular post. It’s the post that they remember the most. So, tell stories and don’t be afraid to go to those places which are perhaps a little more heartfelt, a little more emotional from time to time, even if your blog is a little bit more information-based and doesn’t usually go there. Tell stories is number two.
Number three is to build a community. People are no longer satisfied just to go online, to consume content. We all know this because we’re all not satisfied ourselves. We want to have our say. We want to contribute. We want to create. We want to share. Most of all, people want to belong. They want to sense some belonging. They want to connect with their tribe, with people who share their eclectic mix of interests.
Give your readers an opportunity not just to read, not just to learn, not just to passively consume the content you create, but do everything you can to draw them into the process of creating content on your blog as much as possible through the comments but also through contributing content as well. I think when I opened up on Digital Photography School the opportunity for my readers to write tutorials for the rest of the community, that changed Digital Photography School, my main blog.
I still remember that day where I’ve been writing all the content myself and then I wrote a post saying, “If you’ve got a tip to share, I’d love to publish it.” We had a number of nervous readers approach us and some of them submitted one-paragraph posts and they weren’t amazing but we published them anyway. It changed the culture of the blog. It showed our readers that we valued them as contributors, as co-creators of the blog. Build community, engage, ask questions, interact with your readers.
The fourth thing that I encourage you to do if you want to build a heartfelt blog is to create inspirational content. Lift the eyes of your readers to what could be in their lives. Inspire them. This, for me, took a little while to learn this. Again, particularly on Digital Photography School, it’s a blog full of tutorials. They’re all how-to content but what I found, and I’ve talked about this recently on ProBlogger, is when you actually paint a picture at the start of a tutorial with something a little bit more inspirational, for us, it’s about using a beautiful image or telling a little story to get your readers in the zone of what could be if they take on the information that will be presented in the tutorial.
It changes the way that your readers respond to that tutorial. Inspire. This could be through just doing posts that purely are about inspiration, the post is all about it or as I just spoke through, you can start those informational types of posts with a moment of inspiration in your content. Do whatever you can to help your readers to dream, to have a vision of a future, to give them hope, to show them what they can achieve or what they could become is something better than their current reality. It might be a small inspiration, it might be a really big picture type one but when you inspire your readers, they will come to your blog with a different intent. That can be very transformative. Inspire your readers. Don’t just hit them with information.
The fifth thing I think is really important in terms of adding heart to your blog is being personal. Today, we operate in a space where there are so many tools, literally at our fingertips, that enable us to show a little of who we are, to show what we believe, to show what our lives are like. Think of Instagram. It is an amazing tool that enables you to share your life with your readers.
We have mediums like the one you are listening to right now that enable you to hear my voice, to hear my expression, and to hear what I feel as I am communicating to you in a way that is impossible to do through writing, or at least to the ability that I have as a writer. We have tools like video that enable us to show, to illustrate, to walk people through different processes but also to give a glimmer as to who we are as a person as well.
I think these tools that we have at our fingertips, and I’m thinking of live streaming, I’m thinking of all these amazing tools that are right there, on our phones, in our computers, they enable us to create content that connects, that creates a brand that is more relatable and more likeable. The more I experiment with mediums like podcasting, live streaming, and video, the more I get reactions from my readers when I meet them at conferences that blow my mind. The more I have conversations with the readers that feel like I’m talking to old friends and to realize that my readers do know me. They don’t just know of me but they know me.
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone a little and to be personal, to show your readers who you are. It can be a little scary to do that and I understand the fear that comes along with doing that but with boundaries, in a safe way, I do encourage you to share of yourself with your readers. You’ll be amazed as to their reaction to that.
The sixth thing I want to talk about is being playful. The tools that I’ve just been talking about not only allow us to show who we are but enable us to be a little playful with our audience as well, to use humor, to surprise and delight our audiences, to let them see that you’re not just a one-trick pony. One of the things I realized when I started playing with video, almost like nine years ago now, is that it enabled my readers to see that I wasn’t just into blogging.
I used to produce these videos on ProBlogger and occasionally, my kids would walk past behind and people would send me emails after those sorts of videos and go, “I didn’t realize today that you’re not just a blogger, you’re actually a dad.” It’s amazing how many people just didn’t relate to me as a father until they saw my kids wandering by in the back of videos or saw me showing parts of my house in my video by presenting from the kitchen table in front of a piece of artwork.
Those sorts of tools enable you to show that you have a humor, you have other hobbies, that you have other passions, that you are a normal person. I think from time to time, using these mediums and even using your writing to show that you do have a sense of humor to surprise, to play tricks on your readers, to do these types of things that normal people do with their friends can be a very powerful thing. I think back to some of the April Fools’ jokes that I’ve played on ProBlogger. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done them but by doing those, I actually broke down some of those walls, some of the formality that often happens when people read your content everyday.
Sometimes people can have these perceptions of you that are sometimes good things. People see you as an expert but they don’t see you as a human being. I think by using some of these mediums, you can actually show that you do have a sense of humor, that you are like them. That helps to create a different type of connection with your audience.
The last thing that I want to talk about in terms of blogging from the heart is to create content that changes people’s lives and that makes the world a better place. At the heart of your blog should be the desire to make your audiences’ lives better in some way. Change their life—they’ll keep coming back and they’ll bring other people with them. I think that really does need to be at the heart of what you do. Every day you sit down to create content, you should be thinking about, “How is this content going to make my reader or my listener’s life better in some way?”
But, there’s a bigger picture type of thing that can happen on a blog as well and I encourage you to wrestle with this one—how can you use your influence to make the world better in some way? As bloggers, we often talk about influence and how we can leverage that influence to make a profit. That’s great but we also have these opportunities to use our influence to make the world a better place. We can use our social influence for social good.
I think back to 2011 where I had the opportunity to go to Tanzania and spend a week in a disability hospital there to tell the story of the staff and patients in that hospital using social media and blogging to put the microphone that I’ve been using for my own good in front of some of these patients.
I remember sitting in that hospital, interviewing a young girl who was 10, who for her whole life had not been able to walk and for her whole life had dragged herself for kilometers to school every morning and kilometers home every night with the dream of one day becoming a doctor to help children like her. I remember that moment when I sat next to Amina, her name was Amina, on her bed and interviewed her in that way. I got to tell her story on ProBlogger and on Digital Photography School.
I remember the tension that I had within me that day. Now, here I am going to talk about disability in Tanzania, at a hospital, and a young girl, Amina, on my blog about blogging and on my blog about photography. I remember having some tension around that, “How are my readers going to respond to that?” But do you know what? When I started to publish those stories and tell the story of that hospital and some of those patients like Amina, my readers really responded in an incredibly positive way.
I realized that by allowing my worlds to collide a little, allowing my passion for issues like disability and my hope for developing countries like Tanzania, allowing those to collide on my blog which is about blogging, actually wasn’t a bad thing at all. It showed a different side of me. My readers really responded very well to that. I guess I’d encourage you to wrestle with how you can allow your different passions to collide on your blog? I probably wouldn’t recommend that you write about those types of issues all the time but it’s okay occasionally for your readers to see that you are passionate about other things and that you are willing to use your influence, not just for your own good but to make the world a better place in some way.
I’ve just talked there about seven different things you could do to add heart to your blog but as I’m talking about it, I’m realizing that I’m just scratching the surface here. I guess the point of this particular podcast is to encourage you to create something that has heart, to encourage you to do whatever you can to add soul to your blog in some way. Particularly, I guess this message today is for those of you who do approach blogging in a strategic, clinical way. There’s nothing wrong with bringing strategy to your blog and I think it’s an essential ingredient and something that I do want to explore in the next episode of this podcast
But I think sometimes, we can become so strategic in our thinking that we create something that has no heart. It’s very easy to lose sight of the fact that there are human beings reading the content that we’re creating, that they’re not just numbers in a Google Analytics report but behind each of those sessions. Behind each of those unique users and viewers is a human being with a heartbeat, with a human being who’s interested in engaging, with a human being who wants to be inspired, a human being who wants to belong. Don’t lose sight of that person. Do whatever you can to remind yourself who is reading, who is listening, and create content from that perspective is so important.
In episode 103, I want to take the flipside. I want to talk about some strategic things that you should be focusing upon as you blog from the heart. But in the meantime, before that one comes out, I’d love you to hit our show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/102. I would encourage you to talk to me there about what else you would suggest and that bloggers do to add heart and soul to their blog. Perhaps you want to share a link to a post that you’ve written that has heart and soul. Or perhaps it’s an approach that you take to remind yourself that there are human beings with heartbeats on the other side of those Google Analytics numbers.
I really would love to hear from you because I feel almost like this episode has been a bit inadequate because there’s so much more that could be said so I invite you to say it. Head over to problogger.com/podcast/102 and have your say. Let us know what you think about this particular topic. I’ll chat with you in episode 103 in a couple of days’ time. Thanks for listening.
You’ve been listening to ProBlogger. If you’d like to comment on any of today’s topics or subscribe to the series, find us at problogger.com/podcast. Tweet us at @problogger. Find us at facebook.com/problogger or search ProBlogger on iTunes.
How did you go with today’s episode?
I want to encourage you to create something with heart and add soul to your blog. I’d love for you to share an approach you have used to blog with heart. Leave a comment or link below.
Update: Check out the next part in this series – How to Blog Smart (9 Strategies to Focus Upon)
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