Creating Advanced Content and the Role of Deeper Discussions on Blogs

by Mack Collier

If you think about it, one of the fastest ways to truly establish thought leadership with a blog is to continuously create high-level content around a subject.  Yet very few blogs do that, and the ones that offer high level content on a frequent basis typically have a very infrequent posting schedule.

Does that mean that most people are simply incapable of creating more advanced content?  I say no, and offer two reasons why most bloggers aren’t creating more advanced content:

1 – Saying ‘Here’s What I Think’ can be scary.  When you write more advanced content, you are often ceding the role of expert and acknowledging to your readers that you don’t have all the answers.  That can be very scary for some people.

2 – More advanced content typically gets less engagement.  THIS is the biggest reason I believe why most of the content we see in this space is 101-level, and not 301 or 401 level.  In general, basic content gets shared, more advanced content gets mulled over.  And just like the blogger can get skittish about admitting that they don’t have all the answers, so can the reader when they go to leave a comment.

 

So at the end of the day, how do we as bloggers create more advanced content on our blogs?  That’s the topic I want to discuss tonight at #Blogchat (8pm Central time, Sunday night).  But before we chat about it tonight, I want to offer one example of how we can do that on our blogs, and it ties back to a method I actually use during #Blogchat:

Create more advanced content by first creating deeper discussions. 

First, if you’ll notice the majority of the topics we cover at #Blogchat are more 101-level.  There’s a reason for this, as stated above, 101-level content lowers the participation barrier.  When the topic level is 101-level, it’s easy for more people to feel like they are an expert, and thus they feel more comfortable joining the discussion.

The simple fact is that most people, especially regular participants of #Blogchat, are completely capable of engaging in and contributing to more advanced conversations.  But many people don’t believe they are, and I think it’s the job of the host (whether on Twitter or a blog) to bring out deeper thoughts from participants.  This is something I don’t do very well.

So I will save the rest for tonight at #Blogchat, but if you will be joining us (thank you!), please be thinking about ways that we all can create more advanced content.  And at the same time, how can we create more advanced discussions around our content?

See y’all at 8pm Central!

Pic via Flickr user Appalachian Encounters

PS:  If you want to leave comments here now, please do and we can carry the conversation over to #blogchat when it starts tonight!

{ 22 comments }

Helen Hoefele January 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Love the topic idea. If it helps, questions that come to mind for me include:
(1) How are we defining high-level advanced content? Is there a difference if it is: An interesting concept? A thoughtful insight? A detailed how to? A heated political topic? A not-easily-resolvable public issue? Keep in mind that books, ebooks, Slideshares, etc. don’t seem to get a lot of engagement either.
(2) For advanced content, is it better to focus on just one aspect of the larger issue, e.g., to narrow down the scope of the discussion so no one needs to be the expert in everything about the topic?
(3) Does the Call-To-Action make the difference? Isn’t there a difference in whether you are asking: “Please share your thoughts below.” vs “Let me know if you see any flaws in my logic.” vs “Has this ever happened to you?” vs “Tell me the first thing this brings to mind for you.” vs “How might you use this?” vs. “Do you know of any additional resources I should consider?”
(4) Do we need to give people a more meaningful reason to engage?
(5) Interesting that we don’t need to address the issue of how to reign in a discussion that gets off topic or out of hand. :)

Mack Collier January 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Hi Helen, great questions!

1 – Very wide interpretation of ‘high level content’ or ‘advanced content’, I think. In terms of blogging content, I think a lot of the 10 steps to or 5 reasons why or lists posts could be considered 101 or 102 level content in most cases. We see a LOT of that type of content, then again, it always seems to get shared, so that’s a big reason why!

2 – I think the focus also depends on the blogger’s goals for the content. Is it better to try to build credibility and expertise in one area, or 3? I tend to think the more focused, the better.

3 – Yes definitely think calls to action and encouraging comments are key. Also saying ‘Show me where I am wrong’, or inviting a differing view all help the reader feel comfortable contributing.

4 – Define ‘meaningful’ in this context.

5 – Personally, I find that when I write about more advanced topics, simply getting ANY comments is sometimes a challenge, much less so many that some go off the reservation ;)

Love your thoughts!

Now a question for you, are you more likely to share a 101-level post, or a 301-level post? Which do you feel is more valuable to your network? Very general questions, but just curious toward which level of content you gravitate toward sharing with others.

Helen Hoefele January 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Simplest answer, for now I’d say on linkedin I only share 301-level posts.

On Twitter, I share anything that is somewhat unique or interesting or uniquely well-written or something that I want to keep to maybe reference later. But then again there is a difference in what I simply retweet and what I retweet along with some kind of remark.

I may have more to add after the chat and after giving this some more thought though. :)

Heidi Cohen January 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Mack–

Great idea for #BlogChat.

Advanced content is a challenge for several reasons. As with any content, advanced content requires referring back to your blog goals.
1] More advanced content targets a smaller audience. Many businesses and bloggers use blogging to expand their audience. This goes beyond engagement (in terms of comments and social shares.) Think in terms of visitors and page views. It should provide a more qualified audience that spends more time consuming the content.
2] More advanced content means deeper, more specialized information. This translates to more specialized writers and audience. This can be useful since it means better targeted content.
3] More advanced content can be positioned as higher value since there’s less of it.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Martha January 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm

My interpretation of advanced content would be content that is so good that the blog itself could be the reference. Much blog content is stuff that would be researched more thoroughly and accurately if you hauled yourself to the library – or at least it would if the subject were old enough that books were being published about it yet.

So to me, advanced content would be content that’s as good as or better than the information that you could find at the library.

Mack Collier January 20, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Martha I think that’s a big part of it, the advanced stuff isn’t what you find on every other blog because it typically DOES take more time to create, research, etc. So not everyone does it. Plus, it seems like it often gets less engagement.

Debby Bruck January 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Hi Mack – Do authors save deeper level conversations for different venues, as indicated by Helen Hoefele? Each has its purpose and function based on the amount of time someone will devote to an expected format? Thus, a blog may be short and sweet, a tutorial, some asking for comments, while other engender discussion. Linking widgets set in our minds that we will be sharing the best of the best, just something funny or enjoyed.

Closed community groups, like LinkedIn, may stimulate deeper discussions within like-minded and skilled career areas, where people use the same language and vernacular.

Then again, have people not recognized that blogs may be based upon a successful, typical or ritual formula? Thus, we see standard formats and layouts, like Top Ten, Best of, Tutorials and the like. Breaking out of those molds requires innovation. Blessings, Debby

Mack Collier January 20, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Here’s what I have noticed about 101-level content. If that’s all you write, it can cause you to lose interest in your blog, because you are repeatedly covering the same few topics. Now granted, the content is still valuable to your readers because they are often new because people are always ‘new’ to whatever topic you are blogging about.

But, at the same time YOU as a blogger need to grow as well! I think you need to challenge yourself to occasionally tackle a more advanced topic, and that might help you better explain the 101-level stuff as well!

Debby Bruck January 20, 2013 at 10:12 pm

I’m in agreement. Stagnation without variety and self challenge. Finding models who continue to create exciting and pioneering blogs will help a blogger grow. It’s an old method of learning. Keep reading the work of others you admire. I appreciate the turn of attention upon the author’s ability to improve. Thank you. Debby

Mack Collier January 20, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Ok guys since Hashtracking is still down and we can’t get a transcript, I thought it would be a good idea if we could share our takeaways from #blogchat tonight, so that could help others.

My thoughts:

1 – The type of content you write dictates who your readers are. For example, if you only write 101-level content, then you are wanting to attract readers that are new to whatever topic you cover. But when they advance their knowledge of the topic, they may move away from your blog cause it no longer gives them the information they need.

2 – More advanced content tends to get less engagement. Not everyone agreed with this, but it’s what I have seen here.

3 – Perhaps the middle ground is to focus on creating more 101-level content (Which leads to more comments and engagement), but when readers DO comment, challenge them to dive deeper into the topic. For example, if someone says ‘great post!’, ask them what made it great and try to deepen the discussion.

If you joined #blogchat tonight, what resonated with you? What will you try to do on your own blog?

Becky McCray January 20, 2013 at 9:13 pm

My takeaways from tonight:

@MackCollier: …think about writing for an advanced AUDIENCE versus 101-level

@wildheart4vr: I like to write advanced material. It gives me a great excuse to research

And a couple from me:
Advanced content hits a smaller target: fewer people need it, but boy will they be glad to get it.

Most of my advanced discussions come from readers. They lead me to their discussion.

Mack Collier January 20, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Becky what do you think about the idea that exploring deeper topics can help you and your readers get a better grasp of the topic overall? Even at the 101-level?

Becky McCray January 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I think you’re right. Especially for an uncommon topic like the future of small towns, we’re learning the deeper topics together.

For the small business side of what I write about, I’m not so sure. Given the volume of small business writing, deeper topics and 101 topics get handled separately. At least that’s how I think of it.

Mack Collier January 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Then again you could categorize your posts by 101 or 201 level as well. I do this here, but often forget to add them to each post. But that would be another way to organize the posts for readers. Those that want the 201 stuff can just view those posts.

Martha January 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm

One detail that I thought of too late is the distinction between peer-to-peer blogs versus expert-to-student blogs. In peer-to-peer blogs, I think that a large percentage of content is likely to be at the expert’s personal level, so to some extent “advanced versus 101″ isn’t even much of an issue – almost everything is as “advanced” as the blogger’s own knowledge, though the blogger will work harder on some posts than others.

Samantha Collier January 20, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Hi Mack!

Long time, no talk my fellow Collier. :)

I think you’re exactly right about why we stick to the 101 when blog writing. I’ve been told numerous times to write as if I was speaking to someone who knew nothing about my topic of expertise. It does reach a broader audience but it becomes dully and boring after awhile. Writing higher level content doesn’t come as often but it’s more inspiring. I missed your blogchat but I want to be on the next one!

Mack Collier January 20, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Hello Ms. Collier ;)

A big part of this discussion for me was the idea of getting past 101-level content to make it more interesting for the blogger that is WRITING the content! As you said, repeating yourself and constantly covering the same topics can get boring, even if you are reaching a new audience with each post. They may be seeing the content for the first time from you, but you might be writing about it for the 5th or 6th time.

Hmmmm….I think this might prompt tomorrow’s post idea. Thank you my dear ;)

Kelly January 21, 2013 at 10:15 am

Hi!

I believe inspiration is a large part of the education process, regardless if it is beginning or advanced level.

I look to be inspired and even when I’m just starting out on my new journey I look to mentors who can help solve my problems or answer questions now, as well as inspire me in the future. I want to grow with them.

If an author/writer/blogger can achieve that it’s a bonus. I notice more and more that authors keep to their main area of competence on their blog posts, but are chiming in and/or expanding either on their own ideas or other peoples content in G+, Linkedin, FB. Is that a strategy, or just coincidence?

Once thing I can say for your blog and content is that you often write for multiple audiences in one piece. So where a beginner may process and understand one concept, someone more advanced in blogging or business may get a more advanced meaning. That’s what I love so much about Think Like a Rock Star ( I know I’ve said it before, but I really like your book so I am repeating it)

Mack Collier January 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

Kelly I love your comment and just added the first few sentences to the end of today’s post ;)

Kathy Sierra pointed out something very interesting that she had observed from helping other authors with their books. She said that probably 50% of the content that they create was designed to make the author look smart, but that it actually made the reader feel dumb. She said the author (without even realizing they are doing it in most cases) tries to establish their expertise, but in trying to do this, they talk ‘over’ their audience and confuse them. She said as a result the reader soon feels like they ‘suck’ cause they can’t understand what the author is trying to tell them, so then it’s a short jump to think that the AUTHOR sucks as a result.

I think to your first point, passion and inspiration are intertwined. We are inspired to learn more about things we are passionate about. And as we learn more, we become more passionate about learning even more.

And if one blogger can help us along that journey of growth, guess what? We become more inspired by and passionate about that blogger! There’s a reason why I am constantly gushing about Kathy Sierra, because the more I talk to her and the more I read her posts, the SMARTER I am getting.

The same thing works for us, I have lost count of how many times someone has told me that they love #blogchat because it’s helped them learn how to be BETTER at blogging. They learn more from interacting in #blogchat, so they become more passionate about the chat and the people there.

We can all do the same with our blogs. And thank you again for the nice compliment about Think Like a Rock Star ;)

Kelly January 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Thanks for the kudos and sharing Kathy’s POV. I think I’ve purchased a few of those books and subscribed to more than a few of those blogs.

There is nothing more awesome than sharing our passion and inspiring others – or being inspired.

I think the biggest compliment of all is when someone comes back and shares how they’ve grown from advice, tips and conversation. I suppose the challenge we all face is to create content that addresses the needs of our growing and maturing audience, while continue growing our audience.

Bottom line, stay true to what you know and who you are. You do a great job at both.

RayJGordon January 22, 2013 at 12:51 am

First, Mack this was a great post and comment thread that followed a thought-provoking BlogChat. What I took away from the chat was a clearer understanding of how I actually write content.

In looking back over my posts, I find that many include BOTH 101 and more in-depth discussions about a particular topic. I generally write about what I am keenly interested in, and I often include some background info or history that introduces the topic to a general audience. I then include details and sometimes a more technical discussion if it seems appropriate.

In any case, I try top keep the language accessible to a wide audience, even if some may not understand all the details later in the post. I’ve found that this style does generate some comments from less-knowledgable readers that ask for clarifications or offer suggestions for related topics in follow-up posts.

As a number of commenters have already mentioned, learning is key – the more inquisitive we are as bloggers, the more we can offer our readers.

Helen Hoefele January 27, 2013 at 11:55 am

Loved reading the comments here. As insightful as the chat. :)

Also, I wanted to add, in case you didn’t see it, the topic of conversation, both short and long form along with the deeper-dive was nicely covered in a recent Charlie Rose interview with Biz and Ev of Twitter fame. Read more about it here: http://www.fastcompany.com/3004361/a-conversation-charlie-rose-biz-stone-ev-williams

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