If you’ve been blogging for a while, I believe it’s a good idea to periodically take a step back and look at why you’re doing it, and whether you enjoy it.
Having done this myself recently, I’ve been reminded that one of the core purposes of being a blogger is to give value to others.
Let’s clarify a couple of definitions here.
By being a blogger I mean writing and publishing my own blog, and reading and contributing to others in our connected community of blogs.
Now to “give value” is a phrase that is often thrown around vaguely without meaning much.
For me, on the simplest level, it’s just making someone’s life better, even in a tiny way, even for a few moments.
Somehow enriching their day, bringing a smile, or comfort, or enabling some learning or inspiration, that wasn’t there before.
It’s literally giving them something that they value, appreciate, and are pleased they came across.
I believe as bloggers we can bring this value in two ways.
First, we can write posts on our own blogs that are of value to others.
Broadly speaking there tend to be two kinds of blogs.
The first type are in the original spirit of the weblog, an online personal journal, that you may, or may not, want to share with others.
With these, adding value to others may not be your aim at all, and that’s fine.
But there are some very personal blogs that nonetheless give us value because they connect with us on some way, they touch us, we relate to the writing and the person behind it. We feel a camaraderie, and recognise a kindred spirit, even if they’re thousands of miles away and from a different timezone and a different culture.
With these more personal blogs, the way add value is by the author simply sharing, with openness and honesty, a part of their lives that others then relate to.
The second main type of blogs are those written to explain or teach to others, the “how to” blogs.
These can be very direct and technical, and cover sewing to software shortcuts, baking bread to bike repair, indeed anything where the reader wishes to learn how to do something specific.
Here, the best way to add value is to write about things you have learned how to do yourself, and want to share with other people, in a way that’s engaging and easy to follow.
To be honest, 35hunter is something of a hybrid of the two types we’ve just talked about.
The posts that have gained most views by far have been those that are “how to” guides to some aspect of photography, like shooting film without a light meter, or choosing an affordable compact 35mm film camera.
Or, even more simple, a review of a camera or lens, along with photographs, that helps to guide people to deciding whether it might be something they would enjoy using too.
The posts that have fewer views, but I personally enjoy writing more, are those where I share some personal experience and/or thoughts around an aspect of photography (or something loosely connected).
Put another way, I share my latest adventure in “finding beauty and balance, camera in hand”, the core focus of the blog in its (and my!) five year journey so far.
Again with these posts, I try to add value by making them interesting, thought provoking, and useful, rather than being just my own personal ranting and rambling, or claiming that I am an expert and you should listen to me.
So this is the first way of giving value as a blogger – with what you share on your own site.
Second, we can add value to other blogs we enjoy.
Simply reading someone else’s blog is the starting point, and when I say reading, I mean reading it.
This is one major reason I only follow perhaps 25 sites, most of them blogs, because I want to read the vast majority of their posts – and comment on a proportion (more on that shortly).
I’d rather give a significant amount of my attention and patronage to a few blogs, than follow hundreds and skim through most of them, barely giving them any time, just paying lip service.
In the same way I’d rather sit down with a slab of one of my favourite cakes and enjoy it to the full, instead of having a fleeting lick of a dozen different cakes, then feel dizzy, sick and unsatisfied.
This is also why I don’t do social media. It encourages that superficial skimming, without stopping to try to go deeper, to converse, to connect.
The next level of support and value you can give to another blogger is to leave a comment.
It needn’t be an effusive essay, longer than the original post itself.
Just saying “thanks for this, I really enjoyed it” can make someone’s day, especially if they don’t get many readers or comments.
Even better, be specific about what you most enjoyed about the post, maybe ask a further question about what they wrote and why they wrote it, and/or share some of your experiences around the same subject.
The third level is an extension of the public comment – sending a private message of some kind.
There are a few bloggers I email directly now and then, just because I want to talk more deeply about something, or share something I found that I thought they might enjoy, and so on.
So this is the second way we can add value as bloggers – by supporting and encouraging other bloggers and their work.
My aim after revisiting this thinking is to do more of both types myself.
In particular I think I need to shift the balance a little towards commenting more on other people’s blogs, rather than just prioritising my own.
This could mean less reading and following less blogs, but as I alluded to above, I’d rather give more to fewer than skim over many more.
How about you? How do you like to add value to the blogging communities you’re a part of?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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