Garrison Keillor laments in his own humorous way the rise of the self-annointed writer who blogs and publishes e-books.  As he says “18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives.”  But the New Era writer also enjoys considerably more engagement with his or her readers, rather than relying on the filter of a presumably unbiased editor (who, more than ever, has to consider the bottom line).

Which is why I’m so happy to report the success of the Everyday Bright reader survey.  Nineteen people completed the survey (already 5 ahead of Keillor’s estimate).   I also got feedback in a variety of other forms: emails, phone calls, as well as the comments section of the Anniversary post.  I plan to keep the survey open indefinitely.  Good feedback never gets old.  But I thought I’d share some of what I received, and detail what I intend to do about it.  After all, feedback isn’t useful if it isn’t implemented.

Content

This turned out to be one of the most surprising aspects of the survey.  When asked “What topics are most interesting to you” the response was overwhelming in favor of All Things Quirky (14/19 responses). I’m not sure whether all the respondents realized this was a specific category of posts where I include links to quirky photos, videos, etc from across the web.  I suspect it’s more an indication that my readers appreciate a quirky viewpoint on whatever I happen to be talking about.   In any event, it has certainly assured the continuation of those kinds of posts, which I actually considered dropping since they weren’t getting a lot of comments.

There was not a huge difference in response to the other topic areas.  Popular categories include Achieving Balance, The Little Things, and Career Advice.  That’s a relief since I also tend to write about those topics more than others.

There was only one “other” suggestion: topics discussing writing and blogging.  On the one hand, I feel like there are already so many blogs that discuss this that it’s hard to imagine adding my voice will be of much use.  On the other hand, I am pursuing a career in writing and spend a lot of time thinking about craft.  I’ve decided to find my own niche here and explore what’s at the top of my interest: interviews.  I knew from my time in Corporate Communications there’s actually precious little information on how to do interviews.  I am in the process of reading the seminal books on the subject.  But there is almost zero information on how bloggers can best apply journalistic interview techniques.  My idea is to create an e-book on the topic and potentially offer online courses on the subject in the future. If this is something of interest to you, please let me know in the comments or send me an email.  In the meantime, look for a lot more interviews on the blog as I experiment with the form (such a scientist–I can’t help it).

Format

I appreciate all the kind words on the format.  This is due entirely to the efforts of Arvind Devalia and Satish, two designers I met through the A-List Blogger Club.  I would definitely recommend their services.  Several of you commented that blog was somewhat narrow.  This is my fault.  For a long time, I had an old monitor and always hated blogs that forced me to scroll horizontally to read them.  So when we were going through the redesign, I made them design the blog to fit my screen.  Now that I have a mega monitor, I see that was a mistake.

I’ll be expanding the margins soon, but be prepared for minor havoc on old posts when that happens.

Timing

Jon Morrow recently wrote an excellent article on Copyblogger busting the myth that you have to write frequently in order to keep your blog alive.  My readers seem to agree.  Interestingly, only 7/14 respondents said they were subscribers to my blog.  The reason they hadn’t signed up?  “No, thank you, too much to read now.”  And the great thing is, I totally understand.  I’m often overwhelmed by my reading list too.

For now, I intend to continue to publish two posts a week on Monday and Thursday.  But I’m also going to follow my own advice.  When life intervenes, I’m not going to stress if I miss a Monday post, or even an entire week.  I trust my readers to understand when I need a break.

The other thing I’m doing is accepting guest posts.  So far, the guest posts on my blog have been some of the most popular reading.  I don’t publish anything I wouldn’t want to read myself and frankly, I take their success here at Everyday Bright as a compliment.  As I said on my Facebook page, “Recognizing brilliance is its own art.”  If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, contact me.

Elevator Pitch

Absolutely the most useful responses I got were to the question “How would you describe Everyday Bright to your friends?”   Here are a few of the nice things people had to say:

  • Useful and uplifting. I have suggested it to friends who are going through personal and business difficulties
  • Smart young lady who is the “package”; has family, fantastic jobs/experiences, etc.
  • Smart writing. Insightful perspective. Upbeat personality
  • Short, quirky, interesting stories with a nice graphic to draw me in

There were others, but a real theme started to emerge.  I plan to use these to re-write the top part of my About page, which has never really satisfied me.  Huge thanks to my luminaries!

Lessons Learned

For other bloggers contemplating a survey, I would say it’s absolutely a good idea.  You can get so much insight into your audience and what they value.  There are two things I wish I had done differently:

  • The Questions I Wish I Had Asked: Sometimes it takes a little digging to determine what your real question is.  I asked “How often do you read posts on Everyday Bright?”  It wasn’t until I started to see some of the results that I realized what I really wanted to know was: what posting frequency would you prefer?  So while I don’t want to over-think the process of creating the survey, there is benefit to figuring out the core questions you as a blogger need answers to.  On the other hand, this article in the Harvard Business Review argues you should just have more frequent surveys as a way of engaging in more meaningful conversation.
  • Promotion Difficulties: It’s always true that many of your readers/customers won’t take a survey.  But you can’t use the standard methods of promotion because getting people to take the survey who have never seen your blog before are going to have limited investment in the answers (though they also offer a fresh perspective).  I still haven’t really figured out how to promote the survey to the regular readers without pestering them in various blog posts.  I suppose you could put something at the bottom of each post, as many blogs do with subscription pleas.  Another alternative would be to allow people to put their email address in the survey for a chance to win a prize.  In general I like anonymous surveys, but the benefit to participation may outweigh the need for anonymity.

Thanks again for the insights, encouragements, and honesty.  I couldn’t ask for a better community of readers!