In a two part series, Sam H, Editor of Football United, shared his insights on working with “hundreds of football bloggers” for the past two years, adding to his five years blogging about European football (soccer). In part one, he explains that you must write about what you know and love, have a clear purpose and intention, realize you can’t please everyone, determine how to make what you bring to the mainstream media unique, how to learn from other bloggers and web publishers, consider what keeps bringing people back for more, and that spelling counts. In part two, Sam goes on to talk about how closely tied together are publishing and promotion, where content rules and social media dominates, and if you don’t understand both of these confidently, you’re missing out on the whole thing.
We at WordCast have been honored to have DB Ferguson of the famous No Fact Zone, Stephen Colbert fan site, and many others share their insights into their unique niche of blogging, and we welcome other bloggers to share their insights on their web publishing niche, which is in keeping with the mission of WordCast. However, hijacking a football blog to talk about blogging is not just off topic but outside the entire field of the blog’s topic.
Still, there are lessons to be learned. What makes this article series fascinating are the intentions behind it.
Interrupting the Subject Matter for What Reasons?
Sam blogs about football. Every angle, from players and games to coaches and the fields they play upon. Only football. So why should he interrupt the flow with a message from the sponsors?
That’s why. It is a message from the sponsors.
Sam isn’t doing anything bad. In fact, he’s doing some very smart things. Let’s explore each of these to see if he was successful at conveying the message from his sponsors.
Football United is run on the blog network version of WordPress. They invite any football enthusiast the opportunity to blog for free about their footballing passion. Sounds strange, but imagine a fan site that consists of the fans talking to the fans, wouldn’t your football corporate office sit up and take notice?
Blog writing and publishing is a skill, thus the article series helps to subtly inform fans that they can have their say, offers lessons in how to have that say, and shares some behind-the-scenes peaks at what it really takes to run a blog, especially a football blog.
Don’t we all want to see what goes on behind the curtain? Isn’t this part of our fascination with car accidents – we want to know what happened? That’s why shows like Entertainment Tonight, E!, Oprah, and the morning entertainment “newsy” shows are so successful. In addition to covering the news and gossip of the entertainment industry, you get an intimate look on the sets, entertainment events, and the lives of the stars. While Football United could do a show about their activities behind the scenes, the odds are that this series might be enough of a peak. Still, it’s enough to create some intimacy in the relationship. Fans of the site get a chance to hear from the guy who works so hard to give them their news.
The article not only offers good blogging tips, it shares links to Sam’s favorite sports bloggers, sharing the wealth and helping readers find other interesting avenues of opinion, commentary, and news. Those bloggers get kudos and trackbacks, and maybe reach some new audience, and if Sam’s lucky, they’ll mention that he talked about him in the articles on their blogs, helping him get new exposure. Think of these types of links as mingling at a party, where you meet and greet and exchange business cards with people, hoping one or more will turn into a relationship. The article included a link, thus a trackback, to my own blog, which is how I discovered this in the first place, since I don’t hang around sports blogs of any kind.
The articles are also a chance to attract a new audience from search engines. They offer keywords not normally associated with your content, acting like lures to bring in potential new traffic, but only if there is some connection with your blog’s purpose. Otherwise, visitors are in and out, and the conversion potential is lost. Make these off topic articles increase your conversion rates.
Sam also offers tips on how to track information on Twitter, Facebook, how to search for their hashtags, and more information that helps the fans, not just contributors. He’s not just teaching about how to blog but showing his readers how to get the most of their site and services, making the article not exclusive to bloggers but inclusive to their audience.
The two posts are just two in hundreds and hundreds of posts. Maybe they worked for his readers, maybe it didn’t, but it’s a chance to stir the pot and see what comes up to the surface. If the response is overwhelmingly positive, it’s a way to test the market to see if this is a path you should be following. If it is zip, then keep doing what you do best and take care when going off topic in the future.
Most important, in addition to the behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a professional blogger, going off-topic can give the reader a chance to not just learn more about how you work, but who you are.
In Should a Blogger Ever Write an Off-topic Post? by Judy Dunn of Cat’s Eye Writer, she writes about the difference between blogs you skim and must-read bloggers:
…But the ones I read most frequently have one thing in common.
They don’t just ace their content, take my breath away and make me think in different ways.
They let me see who they really are.
These bloggers are not afraid to say how they feel, to shake me up (sometimes) and to give me advice from their hearts. And they understand one thing:
Blogging is writing is life.
You are a living person and life happens. Sometimes going off-topic to share important life events is part of helping the reader get to know you better, and maybe build a stronger relationship. I remember the day when Robert Scoble of Scobleizer went from being the dude who worked for Microsoft and had free range to bitch about them to rock star blogger. His mother had gone into the hospital and it was clear that there was no hope. Frustrated and angry with everything, doctors, hospital, family, rules, regulations, combined with the sudden loss of his mother, he blogged about it, moving completely away from Microsoft and computer technology to something highly personal, and to some, very private. Like thousands, I was so touched by his humility and personal struggle, I blogged about it, as did others, creating a viral wave of support for him, reaching far out beyond his fan-base and increasing his exposure. While he was well known before, this, in my opinion, pushed him visibly into a new arena. He never abused that gift, and he continues to set an example for integrity, yet he’s an example of how taking off the mask may benefit you and your audience by letting them into your real life beyond the blog.
Tips for Taking Your Blog Off Topic
When you take time out to interrupt the subject matter on your blog with an off topic post, think about these tips to make your own post more inclusive.
- Warn your readers that the post is off topic, and why, and that you will be back to your regularly schedule program soon.
- Make the topic have some connection with your blog’s purpose and intention.
- Entertain as well as educate.
- Maintain the same tone and voice for consistency.
- Write for your readers, not the search engines (do this with intention not link bait).
- Let this be a chance to get to know you better.
- Reward readers with insider bits and links.
- Use these to check the temperature of your readers. If they notice, great, if they don’t, what have you learned?
- If you go off-topic emotionally, consider saving it as a draft for a day or so to wait for the fire to die down, then reconsider releasing it with a calm mind.
Remember, an off topic post can actually generate a lot of energy and spice things up. It gives you a chance to try something different with little risk, and it might reach out and touch readers that have been on the fence in the past.