Today we need to talk about one of the cardinal sins of blog content creation…asking your audience to do the work for you.
Harsh reminder: You are the EXPERT, you are the BOSS, YOU need to be telling your audience what they need to know.
I know that you want to create blog posts, videos, podcast episodes, social media captions, and emails that will be super valuable for your audience. And I know that you don’t always feel like an expert. But you can only ask your audience what they want to learn so many times without sounding like you don’t have any ideas of your own.
As the expert, YOU need to know what your audience should be working on, the roadblocks they’ll run into, and the steps they need to take to hit their goals.
This doesn’t mean that you always have all the answers, but it does mean you can’t continuously ask What do you want me to write about?? to fill your content calendars. Instead of relying on your audience to fill in the blanks, here are 4 ways to get the info without asking that specific question.
1 | Ask open-ended questions
The better option for generating blog content ideas is to use less direct questions to take your audience’s temperature on different topics. In my experience, open-ended questions that allow your audience to share their experiences yield better answers.
Since I blog about blogging, social media, and list building, these are questions like . . .
- What are you working on this month?
- What’s your goal for the end of the year?
- What’s your favorite way to network in your niche?
- When is the last time you planned a month of content in advance?
- Have you ever used IGTV?
- Why haven’t you started using Pinterest?
From that Pinterest question I learned that many people in my audience hadn’t jumped into Pinterest because they weren’t feeling great about their ability to design clickable graphics. (BTW, if that’s you, I totally teach you how over here.)
Get even better answers by sharing something you’ve personally worked through prior to asking the question.
Asking a question like . . . What would you like me to write about? would probably lead to an answer like Video editing.
Instead, sharing my experience with avoiding things I’m bad at and ending that Instagram post with a question like . . . What’s something you avoid because you don’t feel good enough at it yet? is more like to get you an answer like I never make videos because I end up with total imposter syndrome even though I really like doing it.
Those answers would turn into two COMPLETELY different blog posts with very different value and clickability: Tips for editing vs Dealing with imposter syndrome.
Anyone can write about video editing, but you could write a WAY BETTER post about your own experience with imposter syndrome and practical ideas for getting past it. Not only is that type of post more eye-catching and clickable, it will elicit a more emotional reaction and help to boost the know, like, trust factor that is SO important in building a loyal and excited audience.
2 | Pay attention to the people in front of you
Pick a handful of your favorite audience members, list subscribers, group members, clients, or customers – the people you LOVE hearing from or LOVED working with and keep an eye on their posts. What are they focused on? What are they struggling with? What are they doing wrong or right?
Then, write a blog post aimed at ONE person. I do this with emails, blog content, and Instagram captions – they come straight from an issue a real client or customer is having. I don’t mention them or their problem specifically and I make up examples that are similar to their situation, but I still end up with a post I know will help them blast through that roadblock.
Now, if you’re thinking…if I write a post to one person, won’t that be too specific to attract lots of traffic and engagement? The answer is NO!
We need to stop worrying (across the board!) that focusing on a specific issue and writing to a specific person is going to alienate too many people to make it worthwhile.
What actually happens is . . .
- People who are dealing with the same issue are drawn to you + your work even more.
- People who can understand or relate to that issue are drawn to you + your work even more.
- People who can’t relate to that situation keep moving along.
If you write all your posts for everyone, you’ll eventually end up stuck with lots of customers or clients who are trying twist your products / courses / services to fit what THEY want instead of benefitting from the awesomeness you provide.
3 | Make space
Create a space where your audience feels free to share what they’re working on and ask for help. This could be an actual Facebook group or community forum or it could just be fostering feelings of openness, understanding, and acceptance in your social media comments.
Because it’s been over 20 years since I was a beginner blogger, running a Facebook group helped open my eyes to the issues people get stuck on most when first launching a blog. I ask some questions (similar to the ones I posted in tip #1), but often if I just show up and prove that I’m available to provide help (by being a prompt question answerer) and the questions show up automatically!
If your audience KNOWS that you’re willing to listen to their thoughts + issues and help them figure things out, then they won’t be shy about sharing their experiences, posting questions, or answering your prompts.
4 | Start with value
When bloggers + business owners use the What do you want to know? prompt it often comes out of thin air so their audience is stuck trying to come up with a relevant responses to your random question.
Instead of dropping an open-ended question out of nowhere, add it along with a blog post, to the end of an Instagram caption, with a podcast episode, at the end of a live session, or into a YouTube video. Give your audience advice, tools, or tips AND THEN ask if they have any more questions.
This way you’ve sparked their brain with ideas for how to do something, which will make them much more likely to respond with thoughtful, helpful questions that you can answer (remember tip #3!) and then turn into blog content.