Tuesday, August 7, 2007

31 Day Experiment - Day 6

Our task for Day 6 of the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Challenge is to e-mail an "old timer reader." As Darren Rowse (the creator of the challenge) explains,

"Do you have readers that have been reading your blog since the ‘early days’ of your blogging? You know the ones, they’ve been commenting and contributing away to the point where they’ve almost become part of a the scenery on your blog.

These readers play a big part in making your blog what it is. Their comments are actually content that is being added to your blog, their involvement brings a sense of community and makes it a more vibrant place and their input adds to the knowledge base of your blog."

Despite our blog's young age of six months, Liz and I figured we have a few "old timer readers" who have been with us since the good ol' days of early 2007, and we could at least e-mail them and thank them for sticking with us. And then we encountered our first big challenge of the BB31 challenge: Darren referred to "old timers" as those folks whose comments have become the scenery of the blog, and who are consistently commenting and bringing a sense of community to the blog. Unfortunately, we were at a loss - we just don't have anyone like that. Liz went back and counted and we only have 26 comments on our blog TOTAL, 9 of which were written by Liz and Jennie.

So we started brainstorming/asking why this could be. We were able to separate our questions into two different categories: 1-how we treat the blog and 2-how our readers view the blog.

1st, questions that relate to how we treat and use the blog:
  • Are we not giving our readers enough opportunity to comment or share their opinions?
  • Are we neglecting to ask our readers what they think?
  • Are we valuing our output to the point where we make our readers feel there's no room for input?
  • Does our blog resemble a recorded message rather than a live conversation?
2nd, questions that relate to how our readers treat and use the blog:
  • Do our readers see the blog as an additional and more-frequently updated information source, rather than a forum to offer their opinions?
    • Has our blog become like the bi-weekly conference calls we hold to update our partners, where SFW does a lot of talking and other partners do a lot of listening?
  • Are our readers giving blogs a first try with us?
    • We think what we're doing with our blog is pretty revolutionary in the tobacco control world - could it be that most of our readers who work in tobacco control are timid about jumping in?
  • Are half of our readers Big Tobacco spies?
    • Seriously Big Tobacco, we know you're watching...
There are many more questions on our list, but these were some of the ones we decided we wanted to answer most. So now a plea to our readers - let us know, what do you think about commenting on our blog? Do you view this blog as a place where smoke-free supporters in WI can exchange ideas openly? If you're shy and don't want to let us know in the comments section, feel free to drop us an e-mail.


Liz @ SmokeFree Wisconsin said...

Thanks for keeping our BB31 Challenge alive Amber!

Here are some other questions I've thought about that have led to some blog soul-searching...

1. a lot of what we post relates to the latest research that shows smoke-free policies are not only the right thing to do for health, but also that they work in the real world - not really the kind of information that's open to interpretation - do we need to focus more on these studies' implications for policy and engage our readers with questions like, "what would be the most effective way to get the word out about smoke-free New York's success?" In other words, are we sounding too much like a journal or news article and not succeeding as activists who are looking to other supporters for ideas about how to add to the momentum for a smoke-free WI?

2. so far we've advertised our blog through our existing networks and, based on the numbers coming through on our Google Analytics visitor reports, there are a lot of people we work with who don't regularly visit the blog - is it time to reach out to people who are already online but aren't necessarily connected to us right now? If so, how/where do we start that process?

Michele Martin said...

Hmmm. . . you raise some really interesting questions here.

As an "outsider," my observation is that a lot what you post here is "preaching to the choir" and maybe not particularly actionable--sort of like updates rather than calls to action or conversation starters.

I agree with Liz's comment that maybe you need to reframe some things to invite conversation--rather than just reporting the news or a study, invite some kind of action from it. I think it's fine to have your blog be a source of the most up-to-date information, but those kinds of posts probably won't invite interaction the way you want. Maybe you could have a mix?

Just my outsider look at things. Hope it helps.

BTW--I love how you guys used this exercise as a jumping off point into some other, bigger questions for your blog!

Christine said...

Beyond my company blog, I also have a young organizational blog, we're just two months old. We have 27 posts and 30 comments, most of which are the 'team'.

We are slowly starting to get a few outside comments. Some of them have been 'encouraged'. Each time I am at a meeting or see a member I ask them to go to the blog and comment. I tell them how it helps a blog feel more like a community, and how much it helps me keep going.

I think part of it is our audiences aren't bloggers. I know I read a couple blogs for over a year before I started writing myself, and only then started commenting occasionally. I've only started really engaging during this challenge.

As to your blog, I was excited to see you were on the challenge. I immediately went to a personal level. I have a business partner that smokes; always outside, tries to be considerate, supports public smoking bans.

I was hoping for suggestions.
~What do you do when someone you love smokes?
~Does anything help encourage them to quit?
~What kind of breath mint can you hand them when they come in from smoking and the smell is driving you crazy?
~Interviews with former smokers about what helped them quit

This may be totally off what you are trying to do, but maybe some links? When I can make a personal connection, or find something that means a lot to me, I am way more invested in an organization.

Maybe you even have some of this kind of content, but I couldn't tell by your date archive. I went back through some of them because I am doing the challenge with you. I probably wouldn't have if I was just a visitor. I'd go to google and search for another blog.

Keep up the great work, both on the challenge and your mission. It's really important. I love living in Oregon where I don't have to worry about smelling smoke when I go out to eat.