I was in Chicago last week teaching part of a social media training session, and my section was all about how to start your blog, how to go from nothing to something.
So I spent a good deal of time figuring out the right approach to the session – I only had half an hour, so there was no way we could go through minute technical details. Instead, I thought about business planning as it relates to starting a blog, the various decisions one would need to make to wind up with an effective, business-generating blog.
Once you get past the pick-a-platform and what-domain-do-I-use sort of decisions, the rest is really all business planning. Right?
At that point, I’m deciding who I want to reach, what kind of audience I want to attract. Because whatever kind of information I put out there – both in terms of content and style – that’s what I’m going to get back. I very firmly believe that. So really, I ought to be spending a good amount of time thinking about who I want to attract and do business with, and what kind of information that person wants to see.
After all – it’s not about what I want to be, it’s about what they want to see, and how well their needs can be met via my site.
And all of that reminded me of my favorite line from a talk I gave at REBarCampNY, from a book called Always Be Testing, which reminds us that:
Every individual actively makes a choice to come to your website. They arrive, task in mind, prepared to participate. Behavior is voluntary, participatory, and goal-directed. Save for those who land on your site by mistake, your visitors are already interested in you and are there for a reason. And they are completely in control of what they will or will not agree to experience. If your visitor refuses to take the next click on your site, your dialog is over. It is essential to remember you are always one click away from goodbye.
I absolutely love that. My visitors are voluntary participants and show up already interested in me. And it’s up to me to make an environment where they want to stay. Otherwise, it’s my fault that I lost them if they click away.
Given all of that, how vital is it that we spend a good amount of time in our desired site visitor’s shoes, thinking about not only what that audience would want to see, but how they would expect to see it – and where they might want to go next? These people make a choice to come to our sites, and they show up already interested. Just as we would tailor an appointment or social gathering to fit the anticipated crowd, we should be doing the same thing with our sites.
It’s my content that draws them in. And it’s the content that will make them stay, given the right design. So the first decision I make isn’t what pretty theme to use. My first decision is about my content. Because until I know who I’m trying to attract and with what kind of information, I have no idea how to present that information. Right?