Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

You Have to Do This Before People Will Listen to You

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Note: This is Part 2 in a series on how to build a popular blog. In this post, I’ll share the secret to successful blogging. You can read Part 1 here.

This Family Guy video pretty much sums up the need we all have to be heard, not necessarily because we have anything to say but just because we’re human and want to be known.

Unfortunately, that’s the best way to get ignored.

Listen

Photo Credit: Paulgi via Compfight cc

How do you get people (other than your mom) to listen? How do you earn attention?

Everyone wants to believe what they’re doing is interesting and worth talking about. They want to think they’re special and unique. But the truth is that’s not your call.

I see this attitude most often exhibited amongst writers and artists. They think that just because they’re creative, the world owes them respect and attention.

Not true.

You don’t get to decide what “remarkable” is. Your audience does. [Tweet that]

And if nobody’s paying attention, you’ve got a problem.

Never worry about attention again

For years, I thought this way. As a blogger growing more frustrated by the minute that no one was listening to me, I failed to understand one essential concept:

Adding value.

I thought people would listen to me for my wit or humor. I thought they’d care about me, because I was interesting or a good writer or heck, I dunno, why can’t someone just love me for being me?

Here’s the truth: In a world full of noise, the way you get people to care about you is to care about them first.

No, we don’t care what you ate for breakfast or what stupid trick your cat can do — until you show interest in us. Once you’ve done that, you’ve earned our attention, and we may start to trust you.

Communication is a two-way relationship. It involves a sender and receiver and is held together by the glue of the message. Most writers don’t get this. They think of what they do as art, as something to be thrown into the ether, praying that it sticks.

But even art has an audience. Perhaps, especially so.

This doesn’t mean you have to pander to the masses or create mediocre work that contributes to the status quo. But you’d better find ways to add value. You better make it worth your audience’s while.

How I did this with my writing

When I began my blog, I knew sharing my random thoughts about inane things wasn’t enough to captivate and inspire. I knew nobody knew or cared about me (yet), and so I had to earn their attention.

So I started to think:

  • What problems do I have that others might have, too? How have I solved those problems?
  • What struggles have I overcome that I could share?
  • What interesting stories could I tell that would help people?

At first, I didn’t connect. In fact, it took months of trying different things before I found something that stuck: the topic of writing. Somehow, I’d overlooked the fact that for nearly a decade I’d been coaching writers in their craft.

So I began to share what I knew, what I’d learned, and what I was still learning. And immediately, people responded.

Whenever I blogged about writing (versus leadership or self-improvement), I saw a measurably better reaction (in terms of the number of comments, shares, or anyway I chose to measure it). I’d found my niche.

I decided to do a few things:

  1. I started an email list, so that I could capture people’s attention for continued conversation.
  2. I began guest posting on other blogs to build my audience even more.
  3. I asked readers to share my articles (if they liked them) via social media.

From that point on, I continued searching for ways to help people, often asking questions and sharing thoughts along the way. The more this exchange happened, the more a community was established, and the better I got to know my readership.

This is what it means to add value: listen first, speak second.

Such an understanding didn’t come to me intuitively; I had to learn it through failure. But now I get it.

Our talents and skills are not intended only to be used for our own good. They’re meant to be shared as an offering to the world. A gift in the truest sense of the word.

Application: What you can do

If you have a message the world needs to hear — a book you want to write, a song you want to sing, or simply an idea worth spreading — the way you get others to care about it is to not just come out and share it.

First, you must engage, connect, and serve. Then people will listen. This doesn’t mean you can’t have convictions or that you need to wait for permission to speak.

It just means you appreciate the disruptive, media-driven nature of the world we all live in. And that you respect people’s time. After all, how many random strangers did you pay attention to today? (Get my drift?)

To break it down further, here’s what you can do:

  1. Find a conversation. Spend some time listening to what people are already saying about a particular topic. Subscribe to a few blogs, read a couple of books by industry leaders. Get informed.
  2. Engage with others. Leave comments on blogs. Not so people see your name, but just to help. Send emails to industry experts (my favorite way is to subscribe to their email list and reply directly to them). If you don’t know what to say, ask a thoughtful question that only takes a minute or two to reply to (Tim Ferriss is a pro at this — read his thoughts here).
  3. Make a contribution. If you’ve studied your niche, then you know what it’s lacking. This should be something you feel strongly about, something that really bothers you. It could be a grave injustice or mere ignorance. But if you can’t find anything wrong or something new to contribute, then you have no right speaking up.

Repeat the process until people start listening. Then you can start a blog or host an event to continue the conversation. But don’t believe that just because you build it, they will come. You need to earn people’s attention — and the way you do that is by caring first.

So that when you eventually speak, they’ll listen. Why? Because they know you’re going to add value.

(Bonus application: Don’t waste your time leaving meaningless comments on random blogs. Instead, make a meaningful personal connection, take the relationship deeper by helping someone, and then say something that matters.)

Note: This was the second post in a three-part series on how to build a popular blog. Tomorrow, I’ll share the third part, which is about how building something that matters. If you don’t want to miss a thing, make sure you’re signed up for email updates.

What have you done to get people to listen to you? What questions or struggles do you still have? Share in the comments.

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About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://ericspeir.com/ Eric

    Great stuff! The thought does sound quite counterintuitive (that’s a big word!), but I’m learning that more people have the same problems as I do. I think our problem is that we often overlook the most obvious problems because we buy into the lie that we are the only ones that have this problem.

  • http://ReWritingDad.com/ Chad Miller

    It’s taken a year for me to begin getting some real, meaningful feedback. What I’ve found is that when I went deeper than the the same old conversation everyone else was having on the surface, people were affected. They shared my struggles and challenges and responded to my vulnerability and transparency.
    Perhaps the hardest thing for a writer to do is expose themselves on paper. It’s much easier to hide behind the keyboard and build a persona that we believe others will be attracted to. This only leads to inauthenticity which everyone sees right through.

    • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

      Good point – go deeper in existing conversations. One way to do this is to read back through readers comments to see what’s resonating with them and what questions they have asked.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Love this, chad. And I totally relate to the fear of exposing yourself. Feels risky. But the truth is it’s completely freeing.

  • https://bmtmedia.org/ turner_bethany

    Jeff, this post is great. I know I have heard many of these things before, but the way you put them together today shed a whole new light on it all. I can’t wait to start using this information.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Glad to hear it, Bethany!

  • Stephenie Hovland

    Great thoughts, Jeff. I like that you have an application section on the post. How often to we read something and intend to do something. But, “something” is too vague. You give us concrete examples of how to apply the concept. Great idea.

  • Fritz Nordengren

    HI Jeff, you do a great job of helping simplify the steps. I have a love-hate relationship with email, but want to keep an open and realistic mind. I want to ask a question about niches and email. I dont need specific numbers, but what has your experience been with geting people to sign up for your list? You have a huge list – and also a big niche. Do you find 1 visitor in 10 signs up for email? 2 in 5? Do any of the email services give reports about how many people open emails vs just setting them aside?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Tough to say. Probably less than 1%. But when I ask or make an offer (i.e. “get a free ebook when you join my newsletter list!”), it’s much higher.

      • Fritz Nordengren

        Thanks!

  • http://www.suttonparks.com/ Sutton Parks

    This is a great reminder to me. It’s similar to what Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve gotten better at listening to people but it is still a challenge for me to remember someone’s name after I just met them. I’m trying to be more aware and stay in the present moment.

    I wonder how this process would work with music?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Great question, Sutton. I think it’s basically about paying your dues and being aware of what other people are doing. In the case of music, you might go see a bunch of shows, play with other performers that you admire, and then when the time is right, strike out on your own.

  • http://DavidHelmsBlog.com/ David Helms

    This is good information, man! The funny thing is the number one commenter on my blog is my my mom. I still appreciate the encouragement.

    There’s allot of wisdom in these two posts and what I need to internalize first is loving the work. Making the “reward” be the “grind.” thanks Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Hah! Take it where you can get it. :)

      Thanks for following along, David!

    • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

      That’s funny – my mom just posts random comments on my Facebook posts. ;)

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        Hah! Love it.

    • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

      My mom doesn’t follow my blog and has rarely supported my creative ventures.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        Sorry to hear that, Dan.

        • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

          Thanks, Jeff. it’s okay, it’s just who she is. I love her anyway.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    My blog is still a bit wide in its scope, but my main focus is writing. But not just writing. Here’s my blog statement: “http://www.danerickson.net is a site dedicated to writing and writing as a form of therapy.” I want to teach people how writing can help them, heal them, change their lives.

    I understand the idea of giving readers something of value. Some days I’m able to accomplish that. Other days I miss the mark. I’m continually experimenting to find the right mix.

    One dilemma that I have is that my biggest passion writing songs, poetry, and fiction, so I try to mix a bit of those styles into my posts, but they do not get the same response. Yet, it’s that writing that in the end I am trying to share. And it’s my fictional work has very useful messages, (the power of forgiveness, the strength in mercy, to be nonjudgmental, etc.). So how would one convince readers of the value of fiction and poetry when they are more responsive to traditional blog posts? Any ideas?

    • http://christopherjwilson.com/ Chris Wilson

      Cor! tough one! You have to keep your writing (poetry,songs, fiction) going and public because imagine the hypocracy if you didn’t! MAYBE the best thing would be to set up another blog where your songs, poetry, fiction was posted and then link to it from the first blog. That way you let people discover your other material, you don’t alienate people who don’t want to read it etc etc.
      If you look at Jeff’s site he kinda does that. He tells us when he has a book coming and what the topic is, he shares links via social media when he writes on another blog and so on.
      I’m not saying this is right but it might be an option. What do you think?

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        I’ve thought about something like this. I keep hoping danerickson.com will open up and I can use it as my store/promotion of books, poetry, etc., and keep the .net as my blog.

        As I study my blog, I realize that I also need to focus more on what I claim is my focus: writing and writing as therapy. In the last week there have been no posts specifically on those topics.

        The problem is that keeping one blog running is already pushing me to the limit. I’ll keep pondering the issues and the process. I’m planning a new lineup of series’ for the fall.

        • http://christopherjwilson.com/ Chris Wilson

          I can relate to that! More than one site is never going to be easy (unless you have no job etc), I think Jeff’s reply speaks a lot of truth. Being attracted to your voice not your genre. Well, I hope it works out. Write an update here when you decide what to do. I’d love to know how it works out.

          • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

            Oh, I think I’m going to stick with the one blog for now. I have some plans for the Fall that will begin to streamline more articles that offer help and add value. I’ll continue to post occasional poems, songs, and excerpts (mostly on weekends as they are lower traffic times).

            I do have a few other blogs that I need to update too. http://www.annikalyn.com is my daughter’s blog. I need to teach her how to work on it herself over the next year or so. http://www.yakimawriters.org is going to be used for my feature writing students beginning in the Fall. http://hipdiggs was a start for a blog about small houses, but I really don’t have the time for it and will probably let it go when the domain expires. I have ideas for other blogs, too, but that’s part of my problem, I need to find a narrower focus, not add more.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Good question. Of course, it’s hard to convince someone of anything they don’t want to believe. I’ve found that there are pieces I write because I want to help and add value. But then there are pieces I write just because I have to, because if I don’t I won’t have honored my calling. I try not to compare the two. Over time, though, I think your true tribe will follow you because of your voice, not your genre.

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        I agree, Jeff, that voice will outweigh genre in the end. And as writers we do need to be true to our art and our calling. It’s a balancing act. I don’t worry too much because I love what I’m doing no matter what. But it is good to learn ways of gaining more authority and traffic. Thanks for this helpful series of posts.

  • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

    Another good one, J – I originally began a blog several years ago to process what I was thinking and what was happening in my life and work. I found that people appreciated when “I shared what I knew, what I’d learned, and what I was still learning.”

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’ve got a ton to share, Michael.

  • http://christopherjwilson.com/ Chris Wilson

    “Thanks for this, it was just what I needed.. I wrote something similar at….” Just Kidding!

    I honestly think this is the MAIN thing that most bloggers (including myself) get wrong. They get that they need to self promote so they stop listening to others. I was discussing it with a few friends on Google plus recently and someone said that it’s caused by our old enemy FEAR. Fear that if you stop “speaking” online for one second (or dare I say talk about someone else) then maybe people will forget about you.
    Honestly, I’m so fed up of “hey read my stuff KThxBai” that I just don’t want to do any self promotion any more out of fear that I sound just like that. I haven’t bothered to introduce myself on the In-betweeners group because I feel so wrong being on a group set up by someone else to promote their book and then trying to get readers for MY blog (which it feels like some of the other people are doing)

    ANYWAY sorry for the depressing tone (i’m amazed if you got it this far) I know there are some amazing people out there online who do listen and form a real bond with their audience. Your doing a stellar job Jeff.
    Thanks for talking about this important issue ;)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      That’s pretty insightful. I feel that same pressure to keep the conversation going. We are more afraid of silence than we should be.

      • http://christopherjwilson.com/ Chris Wilson

        I’ve been thinking about this more and applying it to some “tricks” some people do like sharing posts 5 times so the whole first page of a site is filled with your material.

        I started to think that “if you really believe in your message, if you know people need it (because you listened to them) then you don’t need to resort to cheap tricks to share it.” I think that fits well with your point that we don’t NEED to keep the conversation going (and I wonder if there is something more about the difference between conversation and monologue as well there). Anyway thanks for the thoughts Jeff.

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    Jeff, this may be the most important blog series you have ever done. This is why you have developed your audience and fans. I appreciate your work and willingness to help us all.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Larry. That means a lot. And here I was, worried people weren’t going to like these longer-than-normal posts.

      • prophetsandpopstars

        There’s a cliche about size and importance that I’m just going to leave alone.

      • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

        When you’re done you may want to

      • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

        May want to package these into one easy reference tool.

  • kentsanders

    Jeff, this has been a great series – not just to read, but it’s extremely helpful in a practical way. I have been struggling for almost a year to really hone my niche and focus. I guess there is somehow a balance between “choosing” a niche and “discovering” a niche. You talked about writing on various topics, but then the response was best when you discussed writing. It has been hard for me to really discern what topics of mine connect best with people. I guess that’s what is meant by “finding” your nice rather than just deciding on something.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Right. It’s a process. And honestly, I think it’s more about worldview than niche. But we’ll cover that more tomorrow.

      • kentsanders

        Looking forward to it!

  • stacey29lincoln

    I live this video every day. My husband and I saw it years ago and thought it was a riot. We also like the one where he says, “you, bring me the Wall Street Journal…” Anyway…

    Great stuff Jeff. Love the series. You have always been such a help to me as a writer. Thanks!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Hah! Awesome. Googling that now…

  • ErichaLP

    This is great! Thanks for sharing your wisdom! Trying to build an audience is work, your encouragement is much needed!

    • http://www.TehLemonsmith.com Tyler Smith

      I agree. This is a good one. Super practical.

  • Daisy Rain Martin

    Thank you, sir. Today, I write simply for the passion of it. I appreciate your work. Now time to get to my own!

  • Marcus A. Cylar

    Jeff, your no-nonsense approach to communicating your points is not only refreshing but also separates you from the pack. I find myself refuting my own internal excuses every time I read one of your posts, and this one is no different. Your points about what we as an audience don’t care about and about not going pandering to the masses with mediocre content are so frank but delivered with so genuinely that I can’t help but appreciate what you’re saying. Thank you!

  • Job Gichana

    This is amazingly great Jeff. I learnt simple maths;whenever I spend more time online, engaging with others, the results are good, as the engagement weakens a red flag shows on my young blog. It all begins with A DEEP DESIRE to make a difference in somebody’s life;adding some value to others. The “name” and “greatness”, or whatever it may be shouldn’t be a worry at all.

    Thanks again for the insights. I especially love the last breakdown: Find a conversation, Engage with others and Make a contribution.

  • Nathan

    Hi Jeff
    I actually just started my blog and really really found this series of articles helpful. Caring is key! Love it!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Awesome, Nathan!

  • http://www.chancescoggins.com/ chance

    Listen first; speak second. Forget building a tribe…This is just great advice for every part of life. At work, in our friendships, with our spouses and children. If we would seek to understand as much as we want to be heard, we’d be on to something. (Finger pointed at myself.)

    Great post, Jeff. One of my favorites of yours! :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Chance. You’re too kind.

  • prophetsandpopstars

    Another great post on the topic and another reason why anyone reading needs to become a Tribe Writer. Sign up for Jeff’s online class and take this stuff soul deep. Thanks for leading the way, practicing what you preach and being a transparent model for a sharer and servant. Great writing, too, by the way!

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the transformation that goinswriter has been a catalyst for.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I appreciate that.

    • http://www.unpluggedrecreated.com/ Justin Harmon

      Hey Jeff, I’ve been really frustrated lately on the lack of response from my blog. I can’t figure out if my message is wrong or I’m not doing the right things or what. This series has helped me take a deeper look into just what i’m doing wrong, lol. Still not sure what that is but thanks to you, I realize it’s all good and to just be more helpful. On an even more personal level at least.

      Appreciate what you do man. It’s so cool to watch your growth, you deserve it.

  • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

    Great post, Jeff. One question: how do you get your mom to listen? Or even just to read? ;)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Flowers. :)

  • cjdeboer

    I’m loving this series jeff – thank you. I too have forgotten my true passion in the midst of trying to make some money and to be heard. Now I have a new seed planted in my heart that I know will combine my passion with helping people. Money is out the window! Looking forward to your next book :-)

  • http://forthisisthetime.com/ Esther Aspling

    I try to get conversation going by asking questions and responding to them. I’m just now starting to join other writing sources, so I’m hoping that really helps in getting the conversation growing.

    http://forthisisthetime.com/

  • Butterfly Jewel

    This was a great article with a lot of helpful suggestions! Thank you for sharing insight into your process and what has helped you. I’m going to be using it as I get back into writing more often, going to try for at least once a month, on my blogs.

    Right now, I have about 5 different blogs (including on which I started to use for student projects and hopefully to expand for a wider audience in the future and another blog started to generate money). As far as niche goes, each blog has a different angle, but my question is, could having this many blogging platforms be too much? In your opinion, what do you think?

  • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

    Jeff, I try to stop, slow down, and listen. Often times we overwhelm, and blow by everyone else’s needs and only discuss ourselves. We can show we care by stopping and listening.

    I struggle with simply wanting to help any time some one is struggling, or asks a question that goes unanswered. That can cause me to lose focus.

  • Jakub Grajcar

    Great post. Thanks for reminding me what’s important in writng/blogging; I keep forgetting this crucial lesson.

  • http://proeditingservices.ca/ Rhonda Kronyk

    As always, a really helpful post.

    I started my blog to support my freelance editing business. Wrote posts about editing, etc. Pretty boring and soulless.

    But, in the back of my head was this question about why I wasn’t do ‘real’ writing (however you may define that). I started reading about writers. Read one book called You Are A Writer Now Start Acting Like One – maybe you’ve heard of it?

    Anyways, I realized that I had something to say that had very little to do with my editing business and started writing posts about writing (go figure!) And that was when people started to engage with me. Because now I was writing about things that are important to others and which have absolutely nothing to do with my business. And I am loving the writing all of a sudden.

    I am still working on ‘earning’ people’s attention. I think you really nailed it with that word. Nobody owes any of us anything – we have to earn their trust and respect. And, we can only do that by caring about something other than our own small worlds.

  • Kellie Hatman

    I’m really enjoying your posts and this one especially. This was something that I definitely needed reminding of. Thank you!

    One thing that I’m struggling with, however, is balancing everything (time management.) I’m a SAHM with 2 little ones, but with that chaos aside, I feel totally overwhelmed with Twitter, Facebook, my blog, etc., and then trying to even find time with my writing… and forget even trying to squeeze in any other interests/hobbies/artistic venues. I’ve tried to focus on just a few, such as Twitter, email and my blog, but then I fall behind on Facebook, friends, etc. I feel like I just can’t keep up.

    How do you juggle everything?

    • http://davezan.com/ Dave_Z

      Even though I honestly still find Facebook and Twitter as time wasters (ha) to some degree, I set a time for using them. If needed, you can also use a timer.

      Of course, that means sticking to that amount of time set for yourself. :)

  • mw

    (fear of not being able to write, voice, fear i may be able to write, fear)

  • Mike B.

    Hmm, everybody else has already said this, but it’s still true…
    This is a good reminder for me, not to freak about my viewer counts, but rather be part of the community.

  • Jimmy Eldridge

    Jeff, thank you for the insights on your blog.

    I have always felt I should write.. I had an inspiration a while back, wrote the outline, the first chapter….then…nothing…blank…zilcho. I have hit a block and can’t seem to get past it.

    Does this happen to you? How do you get past those blocks when they happen?

    Again, thank you for your encouraging blog.

  • Samantha W.

    I find your words very inspiring, especially because you possess a voice of authority with writing. As a young writer, sixteen years old, do you believe I would need to put forth extra effort to gain trust or use a different approach altogether compared to how adult writers have done it? Thank you in advance.

  • http://www.karlaakins.com/ Karla Akins

    This is so difficult for me to figure out. What part of my life do I share to build that relationship with people? The writer? The mom of autistic kids? The pastor’s wife part? The educator? I just don’t know. Or do I combine them all? It’s hard for me to figure out what’s best to focus on.

    • http://davezan.com/ Dave_Z

      Is there maybe some common idea or theme in all five of those things (i.e. writer, mom of autistic kids) you mentioned? Other than you, of course. :)

      Some of my blog’s posts relate to other things in life, so I often include them and write how they’re relevant and/or helpful to other people.

      • http://www.karlaakins.com/ Karla Akins

        I guess I’m going to let people have a look at my personal life more — the struggles with autism — but have my blog’s theme be on writing? Maybe the personal side of my life will connect with readers somehow? Still confused a little. I know it will take time to settle in and figure out what I have to offer that makes a difference and influence and helps others. I just don’t know what it is yet for sure.

        • Jody

          I think it may go back to Jeff’s basic ideas.
          *things he’s learned
          *his desire to serve and give to others
          *what he feels passion toward
          All of it, mom, pastor’s wife, autistic child could be part of that.

          • http://www.karlaakins.com/ Karla Akins

            True, Jody. As I mentioned to Jennifer, maybe it’s just about “being real” — genuine. I have way too many passions. LOL. I don’t write about many of them, though, other than writing (at least on my blog I don’t). Thanks for helping me get a little more clarity on this issue and taking time to do so.

        • http://jenniferdawnmclucas.com Jennifer Dawn McLucas

          I am by no means an expert, but I tend to read blogs because I like the author. The author has said something personal at some point that made me feel a connection with them and now I feel like we’re friends. Of course, it doesn’t have to be uber personal information, I read more than one blog simply because the author has mentioned a mutual love for cats, lol.

          • http://www.karlaakins.com/ Karla Akins

            That’s a really good point Jennifer. I think it may also boil down to “being real.” Thanks for helping me think through this!

  • Matlock 61

    Thanks for allowing us to pick your brain, J.

    Which, of course, means I have a question: (I’m sure I could have segued into that a bit more smoothly, but, hey, Game 6 is on. Go Heat!)
    Would you consider a blog that uses humor to explain African-American culture to be in a narrow or broad niche? I have a high degree of respect for your opinion.

    Thanks!

    • Jody

      Hey I’d love reading it. I gravitate to humor when I’m interested in a topic. And I love hearing other’s stories. Does it matter that I’m a 50something white woman?

      • matlock61

        Actually, Jody, you are my primary target audience.

        But how do I get you to my blog? It’s rude and ill-mannered (my mother’s favorite expression of disgust, especially when my father has eaten cabbage) to post your website without permission…

        (cue Jeff, with either permission or denial)

        • http://www.sidwellstudios.com/ Paul Sidwell

          matlock61, since Jody has asked about your blog, I don’t see the harm in posting a link here. Step into the fear.

  • Dillydallygirl

    Thank you for this, Jeff! This is really helpful. I’ve been writing about random topics for a while now, and I noticed that those I’m really passionate about – travel and fitness – are the ones that garner extra attention. Your words in this article help me narrow down my thoughts all the more!

  • James Cirerol

    great point on saying to write something that matters, i like that, we should use our words for building up people, not tearing them down..There’s too much negativity that is wasteful chatter, and i appreciate your writing that its true and encouraging.

  • James Cirerol

    And you use your words usefully Jeff, and i’m thankful for that.

  • Joy

    Improvement is a goal we all strive to achieve in one area or another. I love what I do, I am an overseas missionary, and I love sharing with people across many walks of life around the world through visual art and writing. Learning to communicate effectively is very important in what I do, reaching people. Thank you for the great advice. I like your personable style of writing, It flows easily with a very personal touch.

  • http://davezan.com/ Dave_Z

    What you wrote today resonates with me, Jeff. I, too, want to provide value to my desired audience.

    In
    my case, I participate in niche forums and comment in specific blogs. I
    also create Google Alerts (i.e. domain names) that often tell me what
    “industry-specific” topics people talk about, then I join the discussion
    if that topic has a comment section.

    (If any of you do what I said above, don’t forget to fill in especially your domain name/website name ever. I wondered why no one visited my site after commenting, only to realize I forgot to put mine in!)

    I’m readying my first-ever
    guest post in a popular copywriting and marketing blog. While totally
    different from mine, that blog usually posts topics related to mine that
    I can share what I know that can help people.

    Thanks and keep writing.

  • Mika

    I am not saying this out of flattery but this post really saved my life, literally. I am really having a hard time communicating to people even though I am a student of communications (the irony). At first, I was in this impression that if I share my opinions to other people, they might think that I am this selfish, self-centered, egoistic, know-it-all person who has alot to say. But I was wrong, all I do was listen to them and never gave any opinions I have in mind. I was living behind a veil of “listening” but I never thought they want me to say any sensible things I might tell them that could help. I was too conscious of what I have to say, fearful they might not agree which is why I hold back and shut up instead. Until by reading your blog I have fully understood how I can contribute meaningful ideas and opinions to people. You broke that silly impression I have about speaking up. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. :)

  • http://www.minecraftgames.co/ Minecraft Games

    Thanks for giving me the useful information. I think I need it. Thank you

  • http://TheInvisibleOffice.com Erica Cosminsky

    I love this post. Connection is so important, especially for those of us like me that work from home and can turn to the dark side of introversion easily.

    I have been struggling so much lately with editing my writing. I always feel like I have raw endings and other stuff, but I never see anyone talking about it. I guess it’s the ugly part of writing and everyone dreads it. I think I’m going to start blogging through the editing process during the Camp NaNaWrimo in July.

  • http://www.minecraftgames.co/ Minecraft Games

    I built the shared like this. It has significant value and impact on thinking and thinking of each person in a positive direction.

  • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

    Great advice, Jeff. With Positive Writer I’ve been surprised at the number of requests for help or to share stuff, and I’m making the best effort to say yet and go the extra mile. I haven’t always been the best at this, but I am working on it. If there’s anything I can ever help YOU with, let me know!

    • Idalisse

      I just want to say that Jeff’s advice on commenting on other blogs does work. I just saw your comment and decided to check out your blog. I am now suscribed to both since you write about two topics that are relevant to me. I look forward to reading your blogs and I really enjoy all your posts Jeff!

      • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

        Excellent, Idalisse! That is an awesome testament! :-)

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          That’s fun. :)

  • http://anicetrick.tumblr.com/ Gustavo Freitas

    Firstly, this is a confident post and I really enjoyed it! It reminds a topic I’ve watched a lecture before: “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey. It’s all about trust and making things mutually as you said – “hear before”. We have this bad habit (is really a habit?) of speaking much. Why not to consider what people say as much important as what we say? Audience comes with audience.

    Keep up with the good work Jeff!

  • CelesteVaughan

    Great post Jeff. I blog alot about Christianity and prescription drug addiction. So it’s tough to get people to join in the conversation because they want to remain anonymous. So I just keep putting it out there…and I’m working on a book that will get out eventually! :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Makes sense. Maybe invite folks to email you? A little more personal that way.

  • Jo Mackenzie Green

    Thanks Jeff, this has been really helpful. In fact it’s helped me to approach the building of my blog from a completely different angle!

  • http://www.yepi2.co/ yepi

    WOW ! very good

  • http://www.sidwellstudios.com/ Paul Sidwell

    Jeff, great stuff, as always. Thank you for sharing.

    As a web developer, I routinely find people on forums asking the same question over and over again. To build trust, I create a walk-through tutorial of how to solve that problem, then I monitor the forums using RSS. Any time a new comment is posted, I jump in the conversation and add value by sharing the tutorial that’s hosted on my website. This has put me in a much-higher position to begin creating trust than if I merely commented once and left.

    Conversations open up once you contribute something meaningful, as you already have shown.

    Thanks again!

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    There is so much competition for ‘attention’.

    Your ideas are well worth taking a shot at them.

    Thanks.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks!

  • Fong Hsiung

    Jeff, your post resonates with me. If I wasn’t passionate about writing, I would have stopped a long time ago. You really have to love what you do to keep going especially when you’re starting to look for an audience..

  • http://www.nuage-software.com/ David Wilson

    I have been a big fan of Danny Inny for a little while now and, via a podcast today, he has introduced me to you Jeff, so a big thank you to Danny because your material is right on! And a great podcast too!

    My service is mainly online recruitment and training software and my blog is aimed at useful material and give-aways for my target audience of senior managers in medium to large enterprises. And, I am working on some small guest blogging opportunities to hone my writing skills and find the right themes that will resonate with my desired audience.

    The biggest problems I have at the moment are time and focus. There is so much that could be and should be done that it seems like the more I learn, the more I appreciate how ignorant I am.

    I think I need to pick two or three high-payoff strategies and really nail them. Any suggestions?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My suggestion is to find the audience first and serve them. Don’t focus so much on what you’re good at; focus on what people need and find a way to serve that need. Then use your talents and skills to do it.

  • Galway

    So… “something that you feel strongly about, something that bothers you.” I totally get that, but (of course there’s always a “but”) what if you’re an artist, love making art, love doing commissions for clients, but not quite clear on what to write about? That would be me. I draw in pencil in a very detailed, photorealistic style, and I’d love it if my art made you happy, made your life better in some way, or just helped you fall in love with the beauty of black and white art. That’s about it. Much as I love creating the artwork, I have no idea what to say beyond that. But (yay, another one!) I feel very passionately about another subject, one I can write about forever without running out of content. It’s about the rights of dog owners and the welfare of dogs, which I mention only to let you see that it’s about as far from artwork as you can get! My main goal is to build an online business selling my artwork (i.e., make money). The other is to enlighten people about important dog-related issues (i.e., make change). Is there any way I could combine the two?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Maybe you don’t write at all. Maybe you share excerpts of pieces you’ve worked on recently. Maybe you post pictures of your whole creative process and build a fan base that way. Maybe you invite discussion into the pieces that you create, asking for ideas or insight or just opinions.

    • http://askhim-ministries.org William H Emmons

      Pinterest is a great pictorial showplace. Maybe put some samples of your art there and link them to your blog.

  • http://movedbypurpose.net/ Stephanie O’Brien

    I LOVE how you point out the importance of CONNECTION. Don’t just leave meaningless comments- add value! If you’re going to take the time to comment, might as well make it worth it by having meaning in it. I am all about living a life of purpose and passion which leads to a prosperous life!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      That’s right, Stephanie. People don’t just want to be heard; they want someone to listen. They want to be acknowledged and engaged with. That’s where real transformation happens. Thanks for the comment!

  • Betsy Stretar

    You’re the best Jeff. Always so helpful, practical, and encouraging! Thank you.:)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thank you, Betsy. It’s my pleasure.

  • http://www.yourbestmoment.com Elyssa

    This is awesome – thanks Jeff! As a reader, I feel so turned off by writers who think that they should be read and shared just because they are creative or special. Yes, we all have a voice and something to say, but you won’t get me engaged in a conversation off the street by just shouting what you believe. But I might stop and listen if you are talking about something that matters to me, and then I probably will dialogue with you if you ask me more about what matters to me. Love the practical advice!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Me too, Elyssa!

  • http://robyn-campbell.blogspot.com/ Robyn Campbell

    You are giving back. Thank you, thank you. This means a lot to me (the underling). (And I mean that in a good way.) I’m sitting back and learning from you. Someday, someone will be sitting back and learning from me. That’s the way of it. Thanks Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      It’s pretty cool how the cycle continues, isn’t it Robyn? I have no doubt that someone will — and I love your servant heart.

  • http://rarepattern.com/ Laura Scott

    Jeff, great advice!

    Have you read or heard of Tara Hunt’s book, “The Whuffie Factor”? I saw her present on this at SXSW a few years ago. She touches on the same themes. Boing Boing described it http://boingboing.net/2009/04/21/the-whuffie-factor-a.html :

    “Hunt’s central thesis is that participating in community and gaining social capital is the fastest, most reliable way to attain success for products, services, causes and movements than advertising and marketing are, and she sets out to re-educate executives and marketing people who haven’t cottoned on to this.”

    It all kind of harkens back to the Cluetrain Manifesto: “Markets are conversations.” http://www.cluetrain.com/

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Fascinating. I hadn’t heard of her, but checking out now!

  • Julia Tomiak

    This reminds me so much of one of Stephen Covey’s Habits of Effective People: seek to understand before being understood. Just the other day, I was explaining this concept to my 13 year old son who is using social media more. “Don’t just talk about yourself,” I said. “Ask your friends about what they are doing/thinking etc.” I’ve found the best success on my blog when I give helpful tips. It truly makes me happy when I can share useful information in a post and people respond. Now… to think of more posts like that…

  • Sara Ward

    Do you think practical blog posts (how to’s, advice, parenting, etc) attract an audience easier than stories or inspirational type blogs? I have seen successful examples of both, but it seems like a how-to blog or practical advice blog with a 1,2,3 list of solving problems is a natural attraction for people. What do you think?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Great question. I think it depends on the audience. Look at Donald Miller’s blog: http://storylineblog.com. It’s all story stuff, not pragmatic stuff like you often find here, and he has a much larger audience than I do. Why? Because he built an audience on telling stories. I do think that whether you tell stories or teach facts, when you make it about the audience, it tends to grow.

      • Sara Ward

        Thanks for taking the time to reply. I am a big Donald Miller fan! I am also working through his Storyline life plan too, which is a way to meet audience needs and offer them something beyond storytelling. He has merged storytelling and practical life advice. Thanks again.

  • http://www.finallywriting.com/ Jackie

    Great article. I think that everyone has a basic need to be deeply seen and heard. When we offer the opportunity to truly listen and respond to others the magic of connection happens. We then learn from them, which helps us learn about ourselves.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Amen, Jackie. You nailed it.

  • http://askhim-ministries.org William H Emmons

    Another great article. Thanks Jeff.
    Do you regularly plan on repostng older posts, like this series. I like that, because I am a newbie with Tribewriters and have not gotten a chance to go back through older posts.
    Do you have a post on reusing your “oldies but goodies” that withstand time and yet are still relevant? Since my ministry is heavy on learning and training, reusing posts for new subscribers is something I plan on doing. Am using MailChimp and will be trying the “drip” function to do this in the future.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Great question, Bill. I only do this when it makes sense and I feel that the article hasn’t reached most of my audience. Need to do a post on that at some point.

  • http://www.positivelydreaming.com/ Sarah

    I LOVE this blog … I feel like I can’t say it enough. This post especially speaks to me because I’ve spent so long trying to figure out what I want to say and becoming more and more discouraged as people refuse to listen. Well, duh: I don’t yet know what I want to say! But it’s becoming clearer to me now, and that is giving me hope. Not only that, but I’ve recently come to the somewhat difficult conclusion that I have to care about what I want to say MYSELF instead of just picking a topic at random that seems like it could attract attention or is a thus-far unfilled niche. It’s tough to realize that your intentions have not been pure up to this point, but I have to believe that’s the first step.

    • http://innervironment.com/ Joe Antonio

      I love this blog too and can relate to what you’re saying about picking topics. I think I’m learning that writing comes from your heart and what’s burning inside you. When that shows in your writing the deserved attention will come. At least that’s what I tell myself. Jeff’s advice about engaging, connecting and serving are all very important, three of which I haven’t paid a lot of attention to and should.

      Thanks Jeff for a great article!

      • http://www.positivelydreaming.com/ Sarah

        I often find that I struggle to put what’s “burning inside me” out there because it seems like people will laugh, or be uninterested, which is almost worse. I think too much about what it means if people don’t even LOOK at what I put out there, but what does that really mean? It was still inside, and now it’s out. Does having a baby count less if no one comes to see her? It’s sad, but it doesn’t mean it was all for nothing. Does that make sense?

        • http://innervironment.com/ Joe Antonio

          Yeah I here you. It can be difficult to put yourself out there and to show vulnerability for fear of a negative reaction. But I also tend to think that there are some of those who will be able to relate and understand too.

    • Frappe45

      That’s the thing with me Sarah. A lot of times I don’t know what I want to say. I think I should write about what people want to hear. But when push comes to shove, I want to write about what moves me. I want to find the best words to express myself and do enjoy the struggle to do so. I tell myself it’s not important to me how many people read my blog, but that’s idiotic. I do care, and that’s one reason I appreciate Jeff’s lessons on how to build an audience by offering value, by helping, by opening lines of communication with readers.

      • http://www.positivelydreaming.com/ Sarah

        I agree, it’s important to admit that audience is important. And then move on and offer value anyway. A further struggle: offering value requires vulnerability, and I’m not good at it. But too bad, right? And away we go!

  • Arline

    another great post, learning a lot.. thanks Jeff!

  • Bernadette Parker

    “But if you can’t find anything wrong or something new to contribute, then you have no right speaking up.” – Thanks Jeff! It’s too easy to default to parroting someone else, or simply being too lazy to do the research, or too afraid to voice a dissenting opinion. Lots of good advice here, thanks again!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My pleasure, Bernadette!

  • Scott Smail

    Great post Jeff!! I especially like the questions you started asking about how you can help others. We all have life experiences in which we’ve learned a key that helped us solve problems. I think sometimes we don’t give those things a second thought & we assume everyone knows about them.

  • Jamie Beckett

    In my sophomore year of high school I had an English teacher who would tell the most fascinating stories about his childhood, his school years, his early married life. It seemed that every aspect of his life was fodder for stories he could tell his classes. Each new story caught our attention and got us thinking about storytelling. Finally, the teacher assigned the class a writing assignment that was intended to get us to share something personal with him. A girl in the class sheepishly raised her hand and said, “But what if we don’t have any good stories to tell. Some people’s lives aren’t as interesting as yours.” To which the teacher replied, “Everybody’s life is fascinating. We all have a story to tell.”

    It took him months to impart that message. As I look back on it I’d like to believe the entire thing was planned from start to finish. Not that it matters one way or another. He made an impression on me that I continue to find validity in, even now, almost 40 years later.

    As you suggest, he had something to say, but he was prepared to listen – and in the process of speaking and listening he brought something out in us that had real value. His name was, Mr. Johnson. I only wish I knew where he was today so I could thank him. He made a difference.

  • Rhonda Marie Stalb

    I started a blog and the thing that I am struggling with is the self hosting thing. It is very confusing.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I agree. Check this out: http://goinswriter.com/self-hosted-blog/

      It should help. I created a video walkthrough to demystify the process.

      • Rhonda Marie Stalb

        Thank you Jeff!

      • Rhonda Marie Stalb

        Hi Jeff,
        I looked at the video and this is soo helpful! Thank you again. You are truly an inspiration to me and alot of others! God Bless you!

  • Beth Campbell

    Great advice Jeff, thank you! I recently started a blog and it’s certainly a learning experience on so many levels. Your blog is not only a great teaching tool, but extremely inspirational as well.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      That means a lot, Beth.

  • Frappe45

    I gotta say I’m sold on your blog. Your advice is valued and appreciated.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks!

  • Loretta Soto

    Hi Brother Jeff,
    I want to thank you for sharing your amazing blog, I have gotten so much from you, on how to start a blog. Also how to reach others out there. I think if I start from one word a day I could make five hundred words in two days, I would be happy just for that.
    There is so much I would love to share, and help others by what I have to say. I been asking God to help me here. I guess I have to keep in prayer and see what Our Heavenly Father has for me. God Bless Brother, You and Your Beautiful Family are in my prayers.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Loretta!

  • Michelle King Eigemann

    It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re trying to build an audience but I love the idea of serving others first. I feel like the passion that burns inside me to tell my story comes from my heart to serve others. Your posts always bring me encouragement and have even at times re-lite the flame that has caused an inferno when I’ve been doubting not only my ability to write but to write something of value. Thanks Jeff

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yeah. It’s fun, Michelle. Serving is its own reward.

  • Vicky Cox

    How do you best keep up with and contribute to the conversation on other blogs without getting bogged down and making time for your own writing? Do you set a time limit?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yeah. I do. And I think it’s best to do this things in bursts of activity, not sprinkled throughout the day. Writing for me is primary. Everything else is secondary.

  • http://fiftyeightsjourney.wordpress.com Yogi Supriyadi

    I like your Post :). I can apply this method for my Blog or when i Join a Conversation with a Group. Thanks Jeff :D

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent!

  • Romeo Salvador II

    Really getting excited about getting more intentional. I have one of those heads where information overload is a norm. There is so much good information out there. But few connect and few deliver the absolute lumber, as I like to say:) I’ve decided to pick a few people and watch them like a hawk. They jump I say how high:) From liking them on Facebook to following them on twitter to subscribing to them. Here’s what I’ve been missing though…DIVING IN AND COMMITTING 100%. It’s one thing to get emails from people but it’s a completely different ball game to read, re-read, take notes, digest and apply. The 3 people I picked to start out are Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, and some guy named Jeff:) Here’s to less proclamation and procrastination and more perspiration!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re right, Romeo. Application is hard.

      Good list, excerpt for that last guy (never heard of him). ;)

  • http://www.callbox.com.sg/ Dara Lin

    The idea made it great. It is on listening that we can deliver trusted solutions to the need of masses however in every solutions we deliver there is a correspond reaction and every reaction made theirs a benefit of learning’s, we grow. Trial and errors cant be avoided however it is a common factor that molds us to become better. Thanks Jeff

  • http://waltersthinking.blogspot.com/ Walter Ruggieri

    It’s all about having a conversation and not a lecture. It’s about talking with someone and not at someone. Yes we should think about doing what brings people to our blogs but not at the expense of being authentic and real.

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  • Jambar Team Building

    Hi, I really enjoyed reading your article! I totally agree listening is indeed important. Thank you for your wonderful article!
    http://www.jambarteambuilding.com

  • Gaelle

    Great tips!

  • Brian Sommers

    I have to say I feel really down in the dumps after reading this. The truth is I don’t think I have anything to offer to anyone. I’m a college dropout, every business that I’ve attempted has failed and I really don’t know anything that much.. it just seems I keep trying the next thing and the next, next, next.

    • http://www.thelydialife.com Kristen VanderHoek

      Hey Brian, I so empathize with this — I’ve felt the same way. What turned the light on for me was realizing that, really, what were the odds that I was alone in my experiences? I felt that I needed to be able to give advice or be an expert in something in order to make my voice heard… but I’ve realized that that’s a lie.

      Sometimes all people are looking for is someone who can give voice to the things that they’re feeling or experiencing, which results in two consecutive reactions: “Yeah… I get that!”… and then “Wait a second… so I’m not alone in this?”. And then all of a sudden you have a dialogue.

      For me, that was enough to start my own blog — something I’ve wanted to do for years. I’ve only just begun a few months ago and have SO much to learn, but the response I’ve gotten from my own community has been so encouraging.

      Please be encouraged. The fact that you’ve taken risks and tried things says a lot… and gives you a valuable perspective. Don’t give up!

    • http://www.storiform.com M. Talmage Moorehead

      Brian, buddy, of course you have something to offer people! I’d give anything if I could go back and drop out of college, and by doing so, save my wasted youth and save myself from the last 30 plus years of torture that I endured going through med school and residency then practicing pathology for 26 years. You’re in great shape compared to me. I’m not young anymore and you are! Last month I quit medicine so I could stomach my life. Now I’m going to do something that I love doing for the rest of my life, even if it means losing my house and going broke. You can do better than me, dude! You can choose work that you love while you’re young. And hey, you can write! Look at the way you reached out and touched my heart here with that brief paragraph of yours! That takes friggin talent, my friend!!! What are you passionate about? Start there. Let’s talk about this before you give up on yourself, huh?

    • Anette

      Brian – one of the most succesful bloggers i Denmark (and now a published writer) is a man who started a blog about being unemployed. Everyday he reported from his life as unemployed in a funny way readers were able to relate to. Keep up the spirit!

  • http://www.clarkgaither.com A. Clark Gaither, MD

    Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. I have done precisely everything as you described in your early writing career. I thought the sheer weight of what I wrote, what I had to say, what I wanted to say, would carry the day. That assumption was a toxic soup of hubris, conceit, and ignorance. But, the only one that got poisoned by it was me. According to my profession, I should have know better. I have learned a lot this past year. Your message is clear and resonates. I have learned these same lessons and they are all true. We all seek happiness in our work. I have found that Happiness resides at the corner of Passion and Purpose and the journey truly does begin at HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

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