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31DBBB Day 16: Solve a Problem for Your Readers

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This is Day 16 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, a group project 60+ of us bloggers are doing together in an effort to help each other become better bloggers.

Today’s assignment is to write a blog post that solves a problem for your readers. I imagine that when a lot of you heard that assignment, your first first reaction was, “What problem can I solve?”

Well, fortunately Darren anticipated that and provided 7 excellent ways to identify readers’ problems in today’s lesson. Rather than repeat the 7 ways Darren explained in the 31 Days e-book. Here are two additional ways to identify reader’s problems.

1) Look in the comments on your blog. One of the principles that 31DBBB champions is to engage your readers by responding to their comments. This is an important principle, but there are some cases where rather than replying to a comment with an immediate answer, the best solution may be to write a separate article. Here are three that come to mind.

  1. A reader posts a comment that goes off on a tangent.
  2. A reader posts a comment that is on topic but would take several paragraphs to address.
  3. A reader makes a point or asks a question that is important enough that you want all of your readers to see it and you want to expand on it.

All 3 of these situations, provide great opportunities to write a separate article. I recommend you also reply to the original comment with a comment that includes a link to that article. I also recommend quoting the original comment, mentioning the commenter by name, and linking directly to the comment if you can. The end result is not only have you solved a problem, but you’ve interlinked your posts, and you’ve made one of your readers feel like a very valued contributor.

2) Look in forums. On Day 9 we discussed the importance of participating in forums in order to build relationships with people who share similar interests. Forums are also a great place to get ideas for problem solving posts. Check any forum and you’re likely to find many posts that are from people looking for help with a problem.

Discussion

  1. Have you written problem-solving posts in the past? If so, have they proven to be a popular type of post?
  2. Which of the ways for discovering readers’ problems mentioned in today’s lesson or this post resonates most with you? Which have you found most effective?
  3. What problem-solving posts might you write in the future?

The Extra Mile

A few other things you can do to take your blog, other bloggers, and this project even further today…

  • Reply & give other bloggers feedback on the little things they do.
  • When other bloggers include a link to a new article they’ve posted today, click, read, and comment on it.
  • Check previous posts in the series for new comments.
  • Tweet, share, & bookmark this post.
  • So, please review Dan King’s blog, BibleDude.net, and give him some feedback.

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.

    39 Comments

    • I've written some 'problem solving' posts in the past in more of a question format than a solution format, and have seen some amazing conversation come from it… http://bibledude.net/2010/01/can-you-give-me-a-ri

      I don't have a new post for this one yet, but I've decided to try a new regular 'feature' using a 'it's your turn' or an 'ask the bibledude' kind of format. I'm thinking that I may introduce the concept with a post, but then regularly use my Facebook page to solicit questions from readers that I can turn into the problem-solving posts. I'm thinking that I can just ask the question…. 'what do you want to know?'

      • You generated quite a conversation on that topic,"Can You Give Me a Ride". Sometimes like you say, we don't need to offer all the solutions, but offer the problem and let others help us with the solutions. That set a great example of a "problem post". –Richard

          • I think it's true that at times people are not interested in your answer to a problem, that they'd rather leave their own answers to a problem. This happened to me last week when I vented about a personal experience. I got more commented then on any other post, and I think if I were to come up with the answer then I would soon re-learn in new comments, that there is no right answer to my issue.

            I think I will write a post on everyone elses answer to the problem! Thanks for helping me brain storm!

      • I like your idea of having an "ask the bibledude" format. I don't think I can do that yet being such a new blogger but that would be cool.

        • Thanks! That was one thing that I've done a little bit of in the past with some success. But you never know what people are going to ask, and sometimes it could be a little off the wall… But it could be fun! I'm looking forward to trying it out!

      • Dan, I think that's a great point. There are certain question/issues where we can offer a solution to a problem, but there are other questions/issues where it's better simply to frame the question and open it up for conversation.

        • Thanks Paul! I definitely agree! And going back to some earlier days in this project, I think that it could be very popular to offer problem solving posts that are also list posts… a la "10 ways to…."

          Love the concept, and that there are a few ways to accomplish it!

    • I am all for engagement, but when I debated that with a substantial site owner, the argument that came back was – "I also believe in engagement, thats why I comment". A comment or reply, to me anyway, is not engagement, but the threshold or first step to engagement. Too many comments are either inclined to patronize or state it the way it is. The trick for the webmaster is to extend the comment into something deeper, by probing, using open-ended questions and seeking deeper meanings. If they are off subject, it may be worth making that point, but if they make a sound point that may be worth milking or possibly even provoking to get other guests to engage – Engagement may be the holy grail of blogging, because it makes the site sticky, but it starts with a topical/controversial blog that must then be fed by the host, but preferably by cross-debate. It requires a deft hand to stimulate it and keep it going. For that reason I post more frequent rhetorical content and less frequent, deeper intense debates. I would love to know how others stimulate engagement as this is where the rubber hits the road for me.

      • Peter – this is also the problem I keep trying to get past. I had an Anglican vicar comment on my blog one day (he follows me on twitter and I him) and he basically said he never normally interacts with folks on blogs – so how does one get that type of person to convert to a regular comment maker. As it happens I did get a 2nd response out of him.

        Th epoint though is how do we get these folks to comment and not just read – because surely something drew them to read the post in the first place and like this 31DBBB process is proving we all like the comments. If nothing else maybe there will be 60 something bloggers that comment more than they did before.

        • You've hit the proverbial nail on the head. People read the posts but few leave comments. Finding a way to engage them is key. I'm still struggling in this area myself.

      • I'd say that you probably hit the nail right on the head with that comment. While we can address reader concerns and questions with our posts, the only way to solve a problem is by addressing a specific person's specific needs through relationship. Even then, I would say that adopting a mindset of "let's solve this problem" is probably the absolute worst way to go. It's one thing if we are talking about a technical problem like Darren suggests, but for those of us with a ministry blog for example, we can't expect to pastor our readers through our posts.

    • I have not written many problem solving posts because my blog is so new. However, I did right one today to follow through with the assignment. I think that every post could potentially be a problem solving post depending on the language that we use to deliver the information.

      Here is my post and today's assignment. Let me know what you think: http://larrywestfall.com/how-can-i-reduce-morning

      • I agree that every post could potentially be one on problem solving depending on how we deliver the information.

        Agreeing with Stuart here, good points. Looks great.

    • This is pretty much the main aim of my blog – to solve problems for people. So I can happily say I've been doing that for a while though I do try to do other kinds of posts as well.

      But whilst I'm here, let me be ultra cheeky and ask if anybody has an IT / Tech related issue and wants advice then please just ask. Especially if it relates to IT / Tech in a church. This is why I have the Skribit addon so that anonymous suggestions can be made or my contact form for those that are happy to be identified.

      • Ok, since you asked. Not church related but… Our computer crashed last week. Dead. Gone. And we need/want/glad for the excuse to buy a new one. But we don't know what to buy. The choices are endless. Do you have any suggestions for a good home laptop computer? Sorry. That's about as techy as I can get.

    • Hmm. Except for my fling with posting all sorts of practical how-to's about Twitter, I haven't really thought I was in the business of problem-solving. (Incidentally, those Twitter posts did well on Google and account for the vast bulk of my search traffic, even though I have since adjusted my focus.)

      But when you put it in terms of "what are people asking," my satirical list post led to a fair number of questions asking me to clarify my thoughts on atonement. This led to a post on substitutionary atonement which will be the first of several, since I have several angles to explore.

      But most of the time, I think what I do best on my blog is share a personal spiritual experience, in the hope that others will find it helpful. Over the weekend, I posted Repentance. This was picked up by another blogger who expanded it into a meditation, with scripture reading and application! I was quite surprised and humbled to find this.

    • I think it is important when writing a "problem/solution" post that I not come across as a "know-it-all" unless I really do know it all. I do want to give out good info and sound knowledgable, but a little humility and asking for the readers' help on the subject may go a long way to keeping readers coming back.
      From what I have noticed, I am more likely to comment on a post that poses the question or presents the problem in an intriguing, conversational way. Maybe the "problem post" would be just as effective, if not more, than the "solution" post. It allows the readers a better chance to participate in the discussion.
      My post today is on Persecution:http://junctionforjesus.blogspot.com/2010/05/pers

    • For those of us in ministry, a good example of someone who writes practical "How-to"s is Brian Croft. He writes solutions to many ministry questions that all of us have asked, but maybe have not thought through the answers as well as he has. His blog is Practical Shepherding, and it really is.http://briancroft.wordpress.com/