Blogging Lesson: Engage and hold your audience

This blogging lesson comes courtesy of Season 7 Episode #6 of The Next Food Network Star.

Blogging Lesson: Engage and hold your audience

The finalists are divided into groups of three and the challenge is to create a unique concept for a food truck.  From promotion to advertising, the contestants are challenged to meld their own unique “brands” into a single cohesive concept.   The ads are shown to viewers who must then choose a single truck to visit.

The contestants had to not only work well with their team mates – but they still had to retain their own unique “voice” and maintain a connection with the audience and their food.

Giada shares her impression of this stage of the competition:

Orchid was eliminated from this challenge because she couldn’t “grab” the audience and hold them.  So while she began the competition as one of the strongest competitors – she was eliminated from the challenge in this episode because she just couldn’t hold her own when sharing the spot light with other “larger than life” personalities.

Giada says in the clip above “They only have 10 weeks to come out of their shell, say this is what I want and who I am – and this is what I want to say.”

Fortunately – when it comes to blogging –  you’ve got more than 10 weeks to accomplish this huge task.  You don’t have to be “camera ready” from your first blog post.  If you’re like many bloggers, you’ll probably discover that it takes hundreds of blog posts to really “find your voice” and be able to say, “this is who I am – this is what I want to say and this is how I choose to say it.”

In episode #5 – the blogging lesson was to “get to know your audience and find your voice” .  It’s essential to learn that lesson before you can hope to accomplish this week’s lesson which is to engage and hold your audience.

Blogging Lesson: It’s essential to engage and hold your audience’s attention because – just like on TV – your readers can easily “change” to another blog or website.

Blogging Lesson: Find your voice

This blogging lesson comes courtesy of Season 7 Episode #5 of The Next Food Network Star.

Blogging Lesson:  Find your voice to connect with your audience

In this episode – Guy Fieri schools the contestants on the fine art of interviewing cooks and restaurant owners for his popular show “Diners, Drive ins and Dives”.   For the elimination challenge – contestants are informed that their cooking demonstrations will the be the live entertainment during a 4th of July celebration.

Vic really shined during this challenge… he donned a pink wig and really put on a show.  With his shaved head and heavily inked, bulging biceps -Vic’s presentation was definitely unexpected. However, at the end of his presentation – he gave an invitation to the audience to come to his booth so he could get to know members of the audience better. It was a heart felt invitation – which could have come across as phony or fake if he really didn’t mean it.

Here’s Bob Tushman’s take on this week’s challenge.

Vic genuinely wants to get to know his audience and that’s an essential element of success for any blogger. If you don’t know your audience – you can’t know what they want from you!

Of course, Justin D was eliminated this week – because he failed to learn from the 2nd episode’s second elimination – you have to be focused.

Justin D has spent the entire competition trying to “find” himself. He went from hip hop guy to southern fried home boy and everywhere in between. The time to experiment with different characters and persona was BEFORE the competition began.

One of the great things about blogging is you don’t have to arrive at your blog “camera ready”. Unlike the Next Food Network Star – you can take some time to experiment and “find your voice”. However, don’t expect your blog to find an audience until you’ve found your voice. As Bob Tushman said of Justin D – when he watched him jump from character to character – he was confused and as a result – he mentally “checked out”.

Justin D hadn’t found his voice – but Vic was well on his way to finding his. Vic’s invitation for the audience to come and introduce themselves to him helps Vic in future episodes to “find his voice”. In Episode #5 – he’s still “Vic Vegas” – but as he gets to know his audience – he changes his voice to reflect what his audience wants to hear from him.

Additional Blogging Lesson: Once you’ve found your voice, get to know your audience – learn why they’re at your blog so you can give them exactly what they want.

Blogging Lesson: Presentation is everything

What you can learn about blogging by watching Season 7 Episode #4 of The Next Food Network Star:

Blogging Lesson: Presentation is everything

The challenge for this episode was to feed the cast and crew of a television show.  The finalists were put into teams and had to make a presentation to a panel of judges and celebrity guests.

Despite the fact that Justin B has the communication skills needed to be the Next Food Network Star – and the expertise necessary to be the Next Food Network Star – he didn’t possess the presentation skills needed to become the Next Food Network Star.

Presentation is everything – whether it’s cooking or blogging.  If your blog is sporting a poor presentation – then your readership will suffer.

The theme you choose for your blog is almost as important as the content you post upon your blog.  The theme determines the presentation of your blog’s content – and if you’re not careful, you could find yourself the next Justin B of the blog universe – someone with the smarts, the skills and the talent to be a blogging star who lacks a professional presentation.

However, the theme you choose for your blog must do more than just impress the human visitors to your blog – it also must impress the mindless robots which crawl and index the web as well.

In the end – you need to achieve the perfect “balance” – between design and function, all playing their assigned role with the relentless beat of the drum of the search engines playing in the background.

This is where The Thesis Theme for WordPress comes in.  Thesis is a blog theme – but it’s it’s not just a blog theme.  It’s much, more than just that.

Thesis is a foundation – a blank slate if you will- for your blog.  I have many clients who have chosen to keep the “minimalistic” look of a plain and undressed Thesis theme.  However, at a moment’s notice – with just a few changes to a few files within a folder inside of Thesis – I can quickly and easily change the look of their blog.

Creating a new ‘look’ for Thesis requires considerable coding skills – and not everyone wants to hire a professional to create a new look for Thesis – which brings us to the latest and greatest “fad” in WordPress blogging – thesis skins!

Thanks to thesis skins – there’s no reason to use a poorly coded theme for your site to create the look you want for your blog.

In the end, Justin B was eliminated because he sounded like a bored waiter instead of a passionate, knowledgeable chef.   If your blog is more than a few dozen posts old – make sure it’s not making a “bored” presentation of your great content with an ugly theme as well.

How to Write a Blog Post – Formatting Considerations

How to Write a Blog PostYou’ve put a lot into writing your blog posts. You’ve chosen a blog topic about which you’re passionate.  You’ve carefully researched and chosen exactly the right audience grabbing words to create a blog post title that is as attractive to the search engines as it is the human readers of your blog.

You’ve put your best writing first – creating a powerful opening line to pull readers into the blog post you’ve written.  You’ve chosen an image which not only draws the reader’s eye into the blog post but also helps to provide visual “glue” for your blog posts.

However, even with all of these considerations behind you – there’s still the all important issue of formatting your blog posts to consider.

It’s important to know that the human eye reacts differently to content presented on a computer screen as opposed to content presented on a written page.

Keep in mind as you write your blog post the four rules of formatting your blog post:

  1. Blog visitors tend to scan rather than read.
  2. White space is your friend when it comes to formatting blog posts.
  3. Use bold print to draw their eye to important words.
  4. You can also draw a reader’s eye by using images as well.

When you’re writing a blog post – formatting is an important consideration.  While 300 words can be a comfortable paragraph on the written page – it’s way too many words to present in a single blog paragraph.

Since blog visitors tend to scan rather than read every single word, by breaking your content up into easily consumed “bite sized chunks” – you’ll find visitors will find it easier to “consume” the blog post you’ve worked so hard to write.

As a result, some blog post paragraphs may one be a single sentence in length.

It’s also important to note that bullets are very important in the formatting of your blog post.  Notice above how I’ve used bullets to distinguish the four “rules” of  blog post format.  It’s much easier to read that information than to read it all contained within a single paragraph, such as:

Keep in mind as you write your blog post the four rules of formatting your blog post.  #1 Blog visitors tend to scan rather than read.  #2 White space is your friend when it comes to formatting blog posts. #3 Use bold print to draw their eye to important words. #4 You can also draw a reader’s eye by using images as well.

White space is a REALLY good thing when it comes to blog posts.  While you may have written a lot of great content – if you pack it too tightly within the blog post page – you’ll find you lose readers.

Another good way to direct the human eye is by using headers to segment your blog post.  If a blog post gets longer than 300 words, it’s best to use H3 tags to create a visual “break” for the reader’s eye.

Because the post Creating Comment Friendly Posts, is longer than 300 words, I use bold type to “break up” the three steps to create comment friendly posts.  As a reader, you can scan and pick up the three tips without reading every word in between.

Finally, use images to draw your reader’s eye to important elements within your blog post.  If you’re going to insert an image within your post – make sure you do so next to content that you want to highlight.  Oh, and since Western readers read from left to right, be sure to place photos to the left hand side of your blog post.  If you place a photo on the right hand side of a blog post – you’ll find it attracts the eye and “breaks” the scanning sequence.

Writing great blog post content and presenting it in a reader friendly fashion is essential to blogging success.

How to Write a Blog Post – Choosing a Topic

How to Write a Blog PostWhen it comes to a choosing a blog topic – more times than not, the topic of your blog CHOOSES you instead of the other way around.

By that I mean that one of the main components of blog success is passion on the part of the writer.  While it’s possible for someone who has never had children to write about child rearing topics – in the world of blogging, that blogger is not going to last long.

There’s an element of “transparency” in blogging which will reveal in short order the author’s lack of experience in the world of child rearing.  While it is possible to watch others undergo the rigors of parenthood – it’s almost impossible to blog and CONNECT with readers in a meaningful way if you yourself have yet to make that journey.

Passion is probably the most important part of choosing a topic for your blog because you’ll need to be passionate to be able to compose 100, 200 or more blog posts on the topic of your choosing.

While passion is important – it’s not the only necessary ingredient to a great blog topic.  Not only do you need PASSION but you also need DIRECTION.

If you choose to blog about child rearing – then you need to keep in mind the DIRECTION you’ve chosen for your blog.  There are MANY phases of child rearing – from infants to teenagers.  Most bloggers find it’s best to “stick with what they know”.    Now, if what you “know” is the “joy” of  raising a teenager AND a toddler at the same time, then by all means – blog about that topic.  You’ll find your readers are also experiencing the “joy” of raising a toddler and a teenager at the same time.

While it’s fine to make an occassional “detour” from the topics of combining potty training with driver’s training – it’s always best to tie these content “detours” back into the common thread of your blog.

Think of your blog like a magazine.  There are magazines for sports enthusiasts – parents – fishermen and business people.  Choose a topic which you can enthusiastically write endlessly about – because when you launch a blog – that’s what you’ll be doing.

You’ll find writing blog posts becomes INFINTELY easier when you choose your topic and define it carefully.