Normally I write about health, real food, and motherhood. But today I decided to take a little break from that to write about blogging. Odd…I’m blogging about blogging. But this is an issue that affect bloggers and non-bloggers alike, and something I think needs to be said.
There’s been a bit of controversy in the blogging world lately, in my niche. Some bloggers have been publishing deliberately provocative, controversial posts to get attention. I’m not going to link to them, because in my opinion they don’t need any additional attention….
I get it.
We all desire traffic. We all want our rankings to go up. We all want our subscribers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers to come to us in droves. We want people to talk about us, and link to our content, and write about our content. I do too. If you’re a blogger, or are considering starting a blog, you probably do too. But I think these deliberately controversial posts are not the way to go about it. At all.
But You Write on Lots of Controversial Topics!
Yes, that’s true. I do. I haven’t been a bit shy about taking on vaccines, homeschooling, breastfeeding, and so on. And I never will be. I don’t think that avoiding the subjects is the right answer, either. If you have a strong stance on something, then talk about it.
The thing is, I try really hard to write about these controversial topics gently, with grace and understanding towards those who don’t agree. I don’t take an “I’m-right-you’re-wrong” position. I discuss topics openly and encourage people to do their own research and make decisions that are right for them. This is a good thing.
What’s wrong is taking a strong position and pitting yourself in opposition towards those who don’t exactly agree with you. “Those darn vegetarians…they’ve got it all wrong! They should eat meat!” rather than “I believe that eating meat is healthy and the right choice for my family.” The first inspires a lot of anger and frustration and probably, any vegetarians on the fence will no longer listen to anything you have to say. The second, though, inspires understanding and curiosity. You might not change any minds…but you might. Who knows. At least it’s possible with the respectful approach!
I strive to respect my readers. And I hope that comes across in my approach.
Building Lasting Traffic, Building Community
I’m not in blogging just to get a few hits. I’m not in it to drive my numbers up like crazy and get people sharing — and slandering — me across the blogosphere. I’ve been there, and it wasn’t pretty. Strangers or not, it’s hard to sleep at night knowing that a lot of people are very angry with you. And online, they’re really not afraid to tell you how they feel…in exquisite, heart-breaking detail. I’ve had my share of mean comments and I don’t like it.
(Side note: think before you type. Re-read what you’ve typed and think about it before hitting ‘send.’ Especially if you’re really angry. Take a break, walk away, take a deep breath…make sure you get your feelings across without attacking the blogger. A real person on the other side of the screen has to read your words, and will likely take them to heart. It might make you feel better to ‘blow off some steam’ if you’re mad about what they said, but it might weigh on them for days. Say it privately to a friend, or write a comment you don’t actually send. A good rule is, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t post it to their site.)
I want to build a lasting, supportive, knowledgeable community. And I have. I’d love to see it grow…but it will, in time. The community grows because people feel understood and accepted. They feel like they can get the knowledge they need without judgment. I have a diverse community that includes Christians, Pagans, Paleo, vegetarians, vegans, homeschooling families, public schooling families, straight, gay, liberal, conservative, home birthing, hospital birthing, vaccinating, non-vaccinating, and so on. All of these people have come together and co-exist peacefully because they have certain aspects of their lives in common. We can discuss those aspects and learn together without feeling the need to fight about what we don’t agree on.
I like it that way.
A community where people feel a sense of belonging and a sense of peace, a place where they can come back again and again to ask questions and read new information is the kind of blog I want to have. It’s incredibly rare that someone says to me “I can’t follow you anymore, this is just too far outside my beliefs.” They don’t need to, even if that’s true, because I don’t need to make an issue out of disagreement.
Controversy brings hits. Greater hits than my way, especially in the short term. But it doesn’t build any kind of community. People constantly feel angry and frustrated. They’re constantly arguing with one another and insulting the blogger(s). There’s a lot of negativity, a lot of hate.
I know for a fact that some bloggers who try this out get a lot of hits in the short term. But I also know some have seen their traffic take a nosedive once they began doing this regularly. Their followers were turned off to the one-sided, rather insulting perspective being offered. People spoke badly about them all across the internet…. (This is why I’m not naming names. I’m not going to engage in that.)
Short Term Gain, Long Term Loss
I guess if you want to try to whip yourself and your audience into a frenzy by posting provocative posts and making people angry, that’s your choice. I think it’s a short term gain (lots of attention) and long term loss (you won’t really gain many “fans” doing this).
Plus, if you choose to take this route, you have to constantly come up with more and more over-the-top subjects to discuss, and get more and more heated and offensive. I know — I tried it out myself. It breeds a lot of stress. The stress comes from dealing with the anger of the readers, as well as constantly having to figure out what to write next. What will get a bigger reaction.
It can also lead to competition with other bloggers — trying to top their traffic, top their controversial material.
But why? That, too, can shoot you in the foot. I love to collaborate with other bloggers. If you choose to compete instead, eventually others will not promote you, and your traffic will go down.
Strive to move more slowly, if needed, and build traffic by positive, wonderful information. If you have something unique and excellent to share, people will read!
For a good example of this, take a look at Frugally Sustainable. To my knowledge, she’s never posted a single controversial topic (at least a negative one), and she’s absolutely sky rocketed in popularity. It was a combination of practical, excellent information and an engaging, positive style that shot her up in popularity. And you know what? Her community is going to stay because she continues to provide more of the same.
That’s what I want, too.