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Blogging Lessons I Learned from My Mom
Two years ago, I kind of tricked my Mom into starting a blog. Here's how I did it: originally, it was just going to be a two-month blog about the Christmas season. (Having grown up with her, I knew that woman could blog the living heck out of the holidays.)
Well, once the holidays were over, Mom kept blogging. Her blog has developed a devoted audience, and she gets featured on craft websites regularly. Heck - a web producer from The Big M approached her for a link recently.
I meet bloggers all the time who want to accomplish what Mom's accomplished, and it occured to me that there are three big things she does right – and these three things have grown her readership and set her apart as a blogger.
(Sure, you can claim I'm saying this just because I'm her daughter, but bear with me, okay?)
Big Thing #1: Seeing Blogging as a Service
Mom is the kind of friend who'll show up the day after your basement floods, bearing a bunch of homemade dinners to get you through the week. She sends mysterious Christmas cards from Santa to the children she knows. In other words, she's always thinking about what would make the people in her life happier.
This mindset carries into her approach to blogging. She's never once sat in front of her computer wondering "What should I blog about?" Instead, she thinks, "What are people doing this time of year, and how can i help them with it?"
That question generates an endless stream of useful blog posts, like this one on tips for easier baking, and this one on mastering the tricky Danish craft of woven paper heart baskets, and this one on planning your blog for a whole year. Read any of those posts, and you can see Mom striving to help you.
I see so many bloggers struggling to come up with blog content, and I think it's often because they're thinking "What am I thinking about today?" instead of "How can I help people do things better?".
And it doesn't matter if you have five readers or five million. If you offer five people a genuine gift of your knowledge (as Mom did in the beginning), they'll tell people, who'll tell people, who'll tell people.
Big Thing #2: Being Genuinely (and Even Minutely) Interested
This one may seem like a no-brainer - after all, why would you keep a blog about something you aren't interested in?
But here's what Mom does really well: out of the whole universe of crafts and cooking, she's honed in on the tiny, specific spots that truly excite her soul.
I think that new bloggers get tripped up sometimes with a too-broad focus. It's easy to think, "Well, I like crafting, so I'll start up a general craft blog and write about all kind of different things." And yes, on the one hand, this approach theoretically gives you lots of options for blog posts. But on the other hand, it can overwhelm you with too many big, broad possibilites – and result in blog posts that blandly mention things instead of diving giddily into them.
For example, when you look at Mom's post about making a complicated, ancient European cookie recipe, you can see that the subject is rather obscure, but Mom has thought about these cookies for years. Her post is detailed and enthused, and her enthusiasm makes it interesting.
Big Thing #3: Seeing Readers as Real People
Here's an area where Mom truly excels as a blogger – and frankly, kicks my butt. From the beginning, she's held every one of her readers as precious. I remember her saying to me early on, "Can you believe she took the time to leave that nice comment?"
The number one question people ask me about blogging is, "How can I get more readers?" And this question often worries me, because it seems to imply that "readers" are some kind of large, faceless forum who'll hang on every word we write. We may get two comments on a blog post, and instead of celebrating them, we're sad that they aren't more numerous.
And yet, from the moment she was getting two comments on a blog post, Mom responded to every one. And when I say "responded," I mean this:
- She clicked the link over to the commenter's blog and read some posts.
- She identifieds a couple things she really liked about the commenter's blog.
- Then, she wrote an email that thanked the commenter and complimented, in detail, his or her blog.
I mean, I've always counseled bloggers to respond when people comment. But Mom goes one better – she starts conversations, which have cemented her core readership and led her to many online friendships.
(It may be tempting here to assume that Mom has loads of available time for emailing, so I'll tell you that she also co-owns a photography business with her husband and is as time-crunched as anyone. She simply made communicating with her readers a priority. And that, in turn, brought more readers.)
These days, Mom's readership has grown to a point where she can't send everyone these emails, but even so, she still manages to respond to people in comment form. And she keeps up with her core group of readers – learning the names of partners and children, remembering important dates, and most importantly, asking questions.
I've really loved watching Mom's blogging journey, and she constantly inspires me to do better. She has decisively taken the pebble from my hand. I'd read her blog even if she weren't my mother!