Accepting reader feedback can be hard. But it’s even harder to tell actual feedback from the words you’d better dismiss.
We need a constructive critic to grow. Sometimes it can sting. Sometimes it’s not true. And sometimes we get a tip worth a pile of gold.
Readers that come to our blogs are our main source of feedback. And they also are a source of change we go through.
About a year ago I’ve participated in a discussion on whether you, as a blog owner, should change for your readers. The vast majority of bloggers created a “no way!” team. They explained that:
But here’s the catch: it’s not as white and black as it seems. Let me tell you what do I think about it.
And don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below!
Now, those bloggers gave two really cool points. Because who doesn’t advocate staying true to yourself? Being real, doing what you love, writing what you’re passionate about. And all that.
But I believe these things are not standing in the way of change. And also, they’re not entirely true.
Let’s break it down.
That’s both a “yes” and a “no”.
That’s true – you start your own website. It’s you who pays for hosting. You write the content and hold the copyrights. And it’s your decision what audience you want to cater to.
Nobody can come to your site and say “hey, you should write about this and that”. You can’t effectively write about things that don’t sit well with you. Suggestions are good and you should be open-minded. Never say no to ideas without considering them first. But yes – you’re the final decision maker in the process of content creation.
But by saying “final” I don’t mean “only”. And here’s why I think your blog isn’t entirely yours.
I’ll use another discussion example. In a community of startup founders, one of them said: “We’ve got a really awesome product but we have issues finding customers”.
The first and top-rated comment was: “Who says your product is great? Your customer decides whether it’s great, not you”. Ouch!
Sounds rough, doesn’t it? But people seemed to agree with it! And I agree with it too.
Or, let’s take another example of all those TV shows that feature experts going around hotels and restaurants on the verge of bankrupting. Did you notice how many owners of these establishments get criticised for their poor decisions? And how many times these decisions fall into the category of “that’s my business and I like it this way”. Then usually the show’s expert says something in lines of “yeah cool, but it’s a crappy idea and nobody else likes it”.
So yes! Your blog is yours. But articles are written to be read. What if you could make your audience larger or happier just by giving them what they want, more often?
I’ve got two issues with this statement.
First of all, we’re never our true selves on the internet. For better or worse, our readers know the more attractive version of ourselves. We don’t post ugly photos (which sometimes is a good thing). We don’t take snaps of the mess in our houses even if we’re total mess makers. And for most of the time, we don’t talk about our personal problems (unless they somehow relate to our writing).
On the Internet, we are what we show our audience. They don’t live with us day-to-day to know what we’re really-really like.
On to the second point!
Staying “true to yourself” doesn’t by any means stand in your way of changing for the reader. It’s called improving or growing. And it’s needed if we want to get better.
If your reader feedback suggests you do something different or better, you shouldn’t instantly turn defensive. Their suggestions could help you succeed in your blogging niche. If they come to you and ask for something, it means they care. They need you. People who don’t give a damn about your site don’t spend time on it or make requests.
I am, for the most part, an advocate of staying open to what your readers say. Whatever you write, whoever you write for, it’s important to be open-minded. And yes, my opinion may be biased by my hanging out with startups who are obsessed with feedback.
So don’t get me wrong – there is another side of the coin. Cases when you shouldn’t listen to what people tell you.
Let’s have a look.
Sometimes people will want things you can’t or don’t want to deliver. I’ll repeat myself: it’s good to stay open to ideas, listen and learn. But don’t lose yourself in the process. Sometimes it’s better to have a smaller audience but do things you want to do. Quality over quantity, always.
It will happen at some point. Someone will come to your site and play an expert. Sometimes, they’ll be talking nonsense. Other times, their advice might be good but totally mismatched for you and your audience.
It’s up to you whether you accept it or not.
This may sound very negative, but don’t worry – that’s not what I mean. Not everybody wants to have a large audience and that’s totally fine. If you write a blog for your small, local community and your site somehow attracts an outsider who suggests changes – that’s fine to dismiss them.
One of the cool sentences I’ve seen on Amy Porterfield’s Instagram profile was that we all define the game we want to win. Success means something different to each of us. Someone will want to become a global influencer, and someone else will be happy if fifteen friends regularly return to their site.
To each their own.
With all these points out of my head, I’m forced to make that absolute cliche statement. It’s all about balance.
But hell, it’s true. People will come to you with their reader feedback. They’ll have expectations and needs. It’s good to listen and improve. It’s a pleasure to give your loyal readers something that will make them happy.
And it doesn’t by all means that you’re betraying your true self or anything alike. The wheel of change goes on. And we – content creators – change naturally with every copy we write.
So change as long it serves you, serves your site and serves your readers.
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments!