I’ve unsubscribed from an awful lot of email lists lately for blogs I’ve been following for years.
Some of the blogs I let go of were smaller ones run by friends and colleagues, and unsubscribing from them pinched my heart like I was unfriending them on Facebook. I wanted to stay on these people’s mailing lists to find out what’s going on in their lives and their businesses, but it’s been ages since I’ve seen an update that’s told me anything like that. I think I last knew what any of them were up to a year or so ago, but I couldn’t tell you for sure because lately, I barely scan their messages before they go straight to the trash. I already know what they’re going to contain — another cleverly worded, thinly veiled attempt to tap into a subscriber base they only see as potential customers to be converted.
And that makes me both terribly sad (as a friend and colleague) and personally affronted (as one of said readers).
Some of the blogs I let go of were run by big-name A-listers, and unsubscribing to them was a disappointment, because these were supposed to be the leaders and experts you follow to learn how things should be done. These were the people whose names I always heard bandied about in conversations about how to be a successful blogger/entrepreneur/online persona. But it’s been so long since I’ve learned anything from them that didn’t end on a teaser note leading to a webinar signup, a product pitch or an attempt to direct me to one of their affiliates.
And I’ve got better things to be giving my attention to.
If I want to be constantly sold to, I’ll put HSN on in the background or open my door to the Jehovah’s witnesses who try to stop by every Sunday morning. (They’re adorable little old ladies in all-black church attire and I almost want to invite them in for tea as they slowly toddle up and down the street — if we had tea and if it wouldn’t result in a lengthy and earnest chat about their Lord and Saviour.)
I sign up to follow a blog because I feel the blogger has something to say that I want (or need) to hear. And lately, from the bloggers who made my “unsubscribe” list, all I’ve been hearing is “Buy, buy, buy!”
When Is a Blog Not a Blog? (When It’s a Blatant Cash Cow)
I know that most bloggers want to monetize their site. Hell, I want to do it too, which is why I’ve slowly been introducing things like sidebar ads and popup boxes that I once despised but now realize are some of the things you might need to try if you mean business. I understand that some of the messages I get from the bloggers I choose to allow into my inbox will be partially self-serving. That’s how email lists work. I’d be naive if I thought bloggers blogged for solely altruistic reasons.
But you can be self-serving while still also serving your followers, and if you want to do it in a way that doesn’t make your followers abandon you, you should look out for their needs before you look out for your own. (Tweet!)
I admire the bloggers who do business the right way, providing crazy amounts of value to their readers and also netting a tidy little profit for themselves as a result. I’m willing to click a few clearly solicitous messages now and then if you’re otherwise giving me something I want/need to hear — and if you’re someone I admire and trust who solicits me infrequently, I may even take your recommendation that I check a product out to heart.
But when the relationship becomes entirely one-sided, when I can no longer ignore the signs that the only reason you talk to me is to hopefully convert some of my money into your money? Then we’re done. And, as your mother would say with that sad look in her eyes (you know the one), I also have to say I’m disappointed in you.
I gave every one of my now-unsubscribed blogs a long, hopeful chance to prove my suspicions wrong. I waited weeks — sometimes months if I was really attached to the blogger in question — to see if they would go back to providing content rather than just content marketing. Maybe they were just going through a sales push for the end of the year, or they were overly excited because they’d just launched a new product. Maybe they’d soon return to their regularly scheduled programming of the awesome content that got me to sign up for their list in the first place.
But eventually, it became clear that 99.9% of the things they were sending out to their email subscribers were strictly for the sake of trying to sell them something, and there didn’t seem to be any indication of that stopping any time soon. Eventually, I had to cut the cord because my attention is already fragmented enough as it is, and every time I click open a sales email, realize it’s a sales email, feel both resentful and sad, and delete it, that’s one more little crack in my energy and my optimism for the day. That’s one more segment of my life, however small, that’s not being spent on better things.
And ain’t nobody got time (or patience) for that in this world where we’re already bombarded enough with information we don’t need and sales pitches we don’t want.
So I’d like to share a gentle reminder to any of those among you currently blogging and hoping to make a buck or two from it, now or someday in the future:
Your Readers Are Not Dollar Signs
They can become customers if you build up a relationship where it’s clear you’ve got their best interests in mind.
They can even become loyal, rabid, I’ll pre-order anything with your name on it customers if you regularly provide them with kickass content that makes their lives and worlds somehow better, with no profit to yourself beyond them trusting and loving you even more than they do already.
But if you stop seeing them as people — real people with real needs who’ve turned to you in the hopes you’ll address some of them — and start seeing them simply as possible conversions, you will lose them (and all the money they’d potentially spend on your stuff).
If you glut their feed with constant commercials, no matter how eloquently worded, that make them stop seeing you as a friend and mentor and start seeing you as a wannabe Billy Mays, you will lose them (and all the money they’d potentially spend on your stuff).
Maybe not right away, and maybe not all of them, but a large chunk and one especially containing those rabid fans you really want on your side.
Consider this fair warning.
Image: Ervins Strauhmanis / Flickr
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