Of all of the commandments of blogging, know and write for your audience ranks at the top of the list. But for those who blog to silent crowds who never email or send comments, the primary source of information about our readers comes through statistical data generated by our stat counters on the popularity of certain posts or referral sources or search term origination. So like dutiful marketers, we use our blogs to deliver the goods, writing posts that respond to the Google searches that bring readers to our site or reprising the topics that are a hit as defined by the numbers.
There’s nothing wrong with that approach, if you merely want to use your blog to market to clients or build SEO – to flawg (fake blog) as some have called it. But if you want to take your blog to another level, to establish the kind of intimacy that some wrongly contend has been supplanted by immediacy or to educate the public, as we lawyers are encouraged to do, or to inspire, you need to imagine your audience.
What I mean by imagine your audience is to visualize the individual readers, from those who stumble across your site online to those who dutifully read your updates daily. Where are they reading your blog – in a Starbucks? Their office? At a basement computer after the kids are in bed? Are they dressed in stiff work clothes or wearing pajamas? Are they using an news reader to catch up on posts – or do they actually visit the site to get the information? Do they print out your posts in a public library because they don’t have a printer at home, or scroll through them casually on their smartphone while riding the subway to a suburban mansion? By imagining these details, you can refine the form of your post to match your audience’s circumstances – for example, enlarging the font or brightening the page if you suspect folks are reading in dimly lit areas, or including an easy print or PDF option if your audience prefers hard copy.
Here at MyShingle, I’ve been imagining my audience every day for over nine years. I imagine the stressed out biglaw associate exhausted from another grueling day of document review who surreptitiously reads my site after her colleagues have left and plots her own escape. I imagine the law student clad in sweats, cramming for an exam in the darkened bowels of the law library who’s procrastinating from studying by scanning my site and dreaming of hanging a shingle and becoming the best criminal defense lawyer in the state. I imagine the mom who left a law firm a decade ago to raise kids and who wants to re-enter the profession, the young dad who’s sick of never seeing his kids while they’re awake during the week, the middle aged government lawyer sleepwalking his way through claims files, wondering whether he’s wasted his career, the lonely solo who’s struggling to make ends meets and the cutting edge solo hungry for every piece of cutting edge marketing and technology information that’s out there. Sometimes, I even imagine the close minded, elitist lawyers who find my site after it’s been linked in a more conventional trade press, and sniping about how solo and small firm lawyers are just a bunch of bottom feeders who couldn’t find a real jobs. I imagine all of these readers and more, and I write not so much for them (certainly, not for that last category!), as to them.
More than any other incentive, imagining my audience inspires me to keep churning out copy, week after week, year after year. Because the post that I write about how not to handle a mistake might motivate a solo who “borrowed” a few hundred dollars from a trust account to pay rent to turn himself into the bar and make amends rather than continuing on and losing his license. The post that I write about starting a firm before it’s too late may convince a talented lawyer intent on running from the law to start her own firm instead, and who goes on to defend, and spare a wrongly accused client from a life sentence.
In your own case, your post might make an abused wife realize that she can leave her abusive husband without losing custody of her kids, or that the destitute family tormented by debt collectors can seek relief. Your post criticizing a judge’s ruling on an important legal issue might find a sympathetic ear on the appellate court and change the law for the better. All it takes is one post to change someone’s mind or someone’s destiny and in doing so, you can change the world. Imagine that.