(This post is following up on this previous one – not intentionally, but more because it’s been on my mind a lot recently):
So I’ve been reading a book – shocking, isn’t it? It’s this one, Michael Hyatt’s Platform – Getting Noticed In A Noisy World.
Mr. Hyatt is undoubtedly the man when it comes to creating a platform. When I say “platform”, I mean the influence and popularity needed to get your idea or product off the ground. And when I say “the man”, that’s putting it pretty mildly. Homeboy has one of the 800 most popular blogs in the world (which, if you think about the sheer number of blogs out there, is kind of ridiculous), and 100K Twitter followers – not bad for a guy who’s main claim to fame was that he was once the president of a Christian book publisher. He obviously knows what he’s doing in this field, and it’s a book chock full of good insights. I’m trying to implement 90% of what he recommends.
But here are the ideas that I simply can’t put into practice, no matter how important he says they are:
1. Determine a theme.
My blog is all over the place. Sometimes I talk about faith, sometimes I write about family. Other times I will post videos of music that I’ve recorded, and then, a piece about how to become a good scooter salesman. This is why the subtitle under my blog’s name reads, “From the unfocused mind of Peter Chin” – not a bad description, when you think about it.
But according to Michael Hyatt, this is really not a good idea because a more focused and singular theme attracts more loyal readers who will come back to your site, and generate more traffic. You know, people who want to read about the same topic over, and over, and over, and over again.
Where is the fun in that??
Variety is the spice of life, and I would just get bored if all I did was post about fatherhood three days a week, every week, for an entire year – I would suspect my readers would too. Plus, I don’t think I have the expertise in any one field to be able to talk about it day in and day out. I could try, but I eventually would have to start faking it. So I’m probably not going to tighten the focus of my blog very much – maybe a bit, take out a few of the scooter related posts, but that’s it.
Actually, I’m keeping the scooter posts too.
2. Limit each blog post to 500 words.
He makes this argument based on the fact that the average attention span has decreased significantly over the past ten years, and people will simply lose interest if a post is any longer. I don’t disagree with that fact.
I would just rather not further worsen it.
In general, I try to write on topics that actually matter to people: church, parenthood, race, faith, topics that are important and often, controversial. The last thing we need are for these incredibly weighty topics to be discussed through sound bites and blurbs, mere slices of thought that do little more than titillate and maybe, exacerbate. Oh yeah, and let’s follow that up with an unregulated comment board discussion that requires no accountability to participate in. That will surely elevate the level of public discourse.
There are many topics that are far too nuanced and important for us to simply dip our feet into them. A 500 word review of a Katy Perry album? Sure. Probably only 10 actually needed. A 500 word piece on gay marriage and the church? Come on. Bloggers should either dumb down their content to match their word count, or else increase the word count to do their content proper justice, but don’t try to do both.
3. Post as often as you possibly can, 5x or more per week.
This piece of advice also makes perfect sense – the more content you put out there, the more chances you have for people to connect with your blog and writing, and build your platform. He cites other benefits of such a mentality, that deadlines can inspire creative posting, but the real purpose is that more posting translates into more traffic.
I’m sure it does. But it also necessarily translates into less thoughtful writing.
There may be some writers out there who can churn out prodigious amounts of creative and engaging pieces that make no compromises in any way. But for the rest of us normal folks, that’s not really possible. In order to achieve that end, we would be forced to churn out drivel instead, consciously sacrificing content for quantity.
I suppose that’s not a big deal if your main goal is to gain traffic, but in the bigger picture, God knows that there’s enough shallow and banal content out there on the internet already, do we really need to add more to the heap? This is going to be my goal instead: write as often as I can without putting another post out there serve no greater purpose than to put another post out there.
4. Use little words.
Make the posts short. Use short paragraphs. Keep sentences short. Use simple words. Hm, yes, all sound suggestions.
Probably not going to happen.
First off, I spent a lot of time studying for the SAT’s in order to get into college. If I know the word “supercilious”, then by God, I’m going to look for a way to use it in a sentence. Second, I happen to like descriptive writing, where someone takes his own sweet time to develop an idea, or to describe an emotion or smell, or uses immense numbers of commas and clauses and conjunctions and run-on sentences to make his point. I like not simply knowing the content of a thought, but the feeling behind it as well.
As you can probably guess, I’m not a big fan of Hemingway, that ambulance-driving slacker.
Third, and this relates to a former point, there are many complicated discussions that are covered in blogs nowadays that require more precise wording, not less. It’s not good to use simple words and short phrases if those words and phrases fail to capture the subtle nuance of what you are trying to communicate.
Meh, I say all of this tongue in cheek. Michael Hyatt clearly knows what he is doing, and I do not. But I think the point that I’m trying to make is that as much as I want to build a platform, I would like to build one that I can be proud of. I want to write about the diverse array of subjects that interest me, and write in a way that does adequate justice to those subjects as well. I want more readers, yes, but readers who don’t have a 500 word attention span, and appreciate the proper usage of the word “supercilious” in context. I don’t want to have to churn out massive amounts of shallow content, all focused on a single topic, filled with small words and even smaller ideas.
Life is much too rich to be covered in such a utilitarian manner.
In the end, my man Meat Loaf can say it better than I ever could: