Having a blog can be like standing in a packed street corner with a megaphone. You can be as loud as you want to be…but usually everyone is too busy to listen. With almost 2 million blog posts published everyday (yes, that’s a real stat) how can we as bloggers reach our audience without the megaphone…
It’s simple. We must teach with our blogs.
Think for a moment about the last blog post you read all the way through to the end. Why did you keep reading? Sure, there must have been an inviting headline that captured your attention. The beginning of post also hooked you into some sort of interest. But what actually kept you reading?
Chances are the writer was teaching you something. Teaching through our blogs comes in a variety of forms, but when we teach, we are actually helping our readers. There is an aspect of blogging and writing that is self-reflective, but if you are only writing for yourself…then a journal will do just fine.
If you care about helping your readers, spreading a message, and making an impact with your words…then you must “teach with your blog”. Here are seven ways I’ve learned to teach with my blog, and some examples from others who do a great job teaching with their words.
1. Explain a new idea or concept
We often think that “everyone is already doing it” but that is just wrong. Yes, what seems simple to you may be extraordinary to others, and a blog is the perfect place to share what you, your school, and your colleagues are doing that is special.
The key to this type of “teaching” blog post is to explain the idea in a way that invites readers to try it out for themselves. You want to not only keep their interest, but also share the secrets that made it successful in a “how to” approach.
2. The Step-by-Step Guide
This takes #1 to another level. In a post I recently wrote on “How to Gamify Professional Development in Your School” I made sure to write down every single step we took in the gamification process (soup t0 nuts). This is the type of post that people search for on Google and when they stumble on your page, scream “Yes!”.
The step-by-step guide is also valuable to your blog readers. It’s a chance for you to actually walk them through the learning process by doing. Unlike a list post or reflection, the step-by-step guide is begging for action to be taken . This usually takes longer to write, but your readers will thank you again and again.
Some of my favorite blog posts have been interviews. It teaches the reader about both the interviewer (what types of questions do they ask and why) and whoever is getting interviewed. This is almost as good as listening to a podcast, and sometimes I actually prefer the text version.
The key to doing an interview on your blog is to make sure you either go all-in with the full transcript of the interview…or have a post based on the interview that has some quotes pulled in. I tend to do the latter type of post because it gives great support for whatever argument you are trying to make.
Whether you are reviewing a book, an app, website, tool, program, or just an experience (think conference)….reviews are a powerful teaching method for blogging. I’m a big fan of reading reviews online before buying something. I try to gauge the overall feeling of the product from people who have used it.
However, if my wife, or one of my siblings, or friends recommend something…I’m twice as likely to buy it or check it out than a random person’s review. As a blogger you are no longer “some random person”. Chances are you’ve built up an audience of readers who see you as someone they can trust. Therefore, your reviews carry more weight than any Amazon or Yelp person. My rules are to be honest, but not slander (or overhype). Try to keep an even keel with your words no matter how excited you are (which can be tough either way).
What worked. And what didn’t work. Reflective pieces can often be all about the author, but when you open up your successes and wounds to your readers…it again teaches. For a long time when I first started blogging, reflection pieces are all that I wrote. Once I realized this, I became “anti-reflection” on my blog. This was wrong for many reasons…but mostly because reflection is helpful for both the writer and the reader. If you can touch on a success or failure that someone else is going through, you’ve done more with your words than you can ever imagine.
6. A Different Perspective
As I browse Twitter and social media it is easy to see where the “mob” mentality comes to play. People love jumping on an idea and building on it (this is not always a bad thing). Often there needs to another voice, and another perspective shared on topics that everyone is taking for face value.
One of my favorite bloggers, John Spencer, does a great job of giving a different perspective in many of his posts. They don’t have to be long, but they make you think. The purpose of the “different perspective” post is to teach your readers that all ideas have multiple vantage points. Be careful before labeling the “next best thing” as “the best thing”.
7. A Shared Experiment/Challenge
I want to do more of these types of posts. Last spring/summer I ran the “Summer of Twitter Challenge“. It was a simple way to challenge teachers and schools to join Twitter and get active online. Over 100 schools joined the wiki and started sharing. I’m not sure how many followed through (it was tough even for my school) but the challenge excited people, including me.
A share experiment or challenge allows you and your readers to go through something together. Then you can discuss together, and when it is over, reflect together. Some of my favorite blogs do this with their readers on a regular basis. You could survey your readers and see what type of challenge they are up for, or just spring it on them and see who joins in the fun. And that’s what this is…fun. Let me know if you are running a challenge or experiment and I’d love to join in!
Example: Tim Grahl’s 10k Experiment
I hope this gives you some ideas for new blog posts and ways to teach with your blog. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past year of writing, it’s to mix it up and try new things. If you’ve taught with your blog in the above ways share your experience below in the comments. We can all learn so from each other, as long as we are putting it out there to the world!