I confess. I am a random creative, about as right-brained as you can get. In high school, I aced the verbal section of the SAT’s.
But man, I hated the math and science questions. You know, the ones like:
Tom is taller than Max. Max is shorter than James. James is shorter than Don. What does this mean?
- Tom is taller than James.
- Tom is shorter than James.
- Max is shorter than Don.
- Don is taller than Tom.
I wanted to say, “ Some people are short and some are tall.”
(Because the real answer to this question didn’t interest me in the slightest.)
I had to draw little stick people on my test paper to figure it out. It wasn’t fun.
Science was especially tough. In biology lab in 10th grade, I couldn’t get beyond having to kill a live frog. I never got to the dissection part.
From that day on, the closest I ever got to a lab was watching Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his hapless assistant Beaker on The Muppet Show.
A blog is a perfect laboratory
So, no, I never made friends with science. And when I started blogging, the last thing I wanted to do was put on that white lab coat.
I saw blogging as an art: words and imagery and creative ideas.
Then one day I realized that whether I loved science in school or sucked big time at it, I could use it to improve my blog.
Science is full of theories. Whether they prove to be true or not, we learn things as we test them.
And when we blog, we also learn about what works and what doesn’t. What is ‘true’ for our readers and what is not.
What we think our readers need and what they really need.
7 ways to use your blog as a laboratory
1. Formulate your problem.
Choose a problem area for your blog. Let’s say you are missing the mark in developing content that engages your readers and keeps them coming back. You want to know what your readers need help with.
Because that will help you shape not only your blog’s content, but new services your business might offer down the road.
2. Use questioning strategies to get more information.
Whether you are looking to design the most helpful blog content for your readers or create new products and services they will eagerly consume, this step is essential.
Ask your readers what they need—and ask often. They will have more buy-in and ownership when your post or new service comes out because they had a say in building it.
3. Observe, listen and collect information from your comments.
Treat your blog’s comment section as a nature trail. You have your little pen and notebook. You are watching, listening, gathering information.
Once you start doing this, you will be amazed at what you see. Your readers are giving you exactly what you need to solve their problems, turn them into customers, even.
If you are a fiction writer or aspiring author, they are giving you priceless feedback on what you are writing and the things they like to read. If you are a sales coach, they may be telling you what their biggest obstacle is in building greater revenues. This is prime stuff.
In fact, the topic of this post came from a comment I made to one of my blog’s readers about a blog being a great laboratory.
“What exactly do you mean by that?” she said.
And so, the idea for this post.
4. Give your readers an incentive to become your lab partner.
Something as simple as a small prize for the best response from your readers can greatly increase the number of responses you get.
As I was planning my blogging webinar, I asked my readers to leave their blog’s URL and the biggest problem they were having on their blog. I gave a free copy of an ebook I sell on my blog to the person who left the most intriguing answer.
I got close to 100 comments on that post —and they helped me create a content- and design-focused webinar that solved many of my readers’ biggest problems.
Blog as laboratory.
5. “Experiment’ with your blog post headlines on Twitter.
You know how important your headlines are. They either get people to click through or they send them running. Extending your blog-as-lab to social media will help you fine tune your titles.
America’s most famous scientist-inventor Thomas Edison once said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
Follow Edison’s lead. Experiment with your own blog post headlines on Twitter and find out which work and which don’t. Try tweeting two different headlines and track the click-through rates with bit.ly.com. Your results will help you write more appealing and engaging headlines.
6. Test your new ideas.
Okay. This one is a little scary. Take the stuff you have observed, the things you heard from your readers, and write a new post. Or develop a new product or service.
If you remember Thomas Edison, you know that you just keep trying, keep refining that idea until you solve the problem. So get it out there—yes, in its imperfect form—and repeat #3: observe and listen some more.
Your readers will love you for it. I often hear in the comments, “Thank for listening. This post was really helpful.”
7. Discover ways to apply what you have learned to ‘invent’ new things.
Sometimes in this process, completely new needs will emerge from your readers, which gives you even more ways to help your readers (and customers).
In my questions to my readers as I was planning my first webinar, I learned that many of them want to learn how to start making money from their blogs. So I planned a second workshop, this one on ways to monetize a blog.
Use the information to continuously improve your blog, whether it’s figuring out the content your readers need, planning a new product or service, discovering the most effective headlines or something else.
An audio version of this post: