Every blog has an unwritten social contract between the author and the readers.
If you have a blog, you have one.
You got one the minute you got your first reader.
And the challenge is that it’s invisible. It’s built based on every blog post you write, every comment you reply to, every link you share. It’s your unstated, but powerfully communicated, commitment to meet the expectations your actions promise.
Here’s what an excerpt of what mine might look like for my blog Stuff Christians Like:
- I will post six posts a week.
- Five of those six posts will fit the concept of Stuff Christians Like and be presented in numerical list fashion.
- Four of those five posts will be a funny reflection of some aspect of faith. (If the item is something everyone likes, such as “pizza,” that will never be on the site. That’s not unique to “Christians.” Everyone likes pizza.)
- On Wednesdays, I will write a “Serious Wednesday post.” This will not be a satire. I will not post it on Thursday or Tuesday. I will not post serious posts back to back.
- On Fridays, I will share the platform with another writer and encourage people to do a guest post.
- On Saturday, all bets are off and I will post short questions, videos of songs I like, and a whole host of randomness.
That’s not the whole contract, but that’s definitely a start. The challenge, though, is that it takes time to figure out what your contract is with readers. And sometimes you don’t know what it is until you’ve broken it. That’s what I did one time.
About two years ago, I started another site. I decided I would do a month long writing exercise on it. When it started up, I posted an excerpt and a link to that other site everyday on Stuff Christians Like. Everyday, for a month on SCL, I posted something like, “I just wrote a new post on my other site. Here’s the link.”
I did that because I honestly felt like people who read SCL would enjoy the other site I was writing. But towards the end of the month, a handful of people started to express their frustration. They wrote comments like, “I subscribed to SCL, not that other site and don’t love getting told about that constantly in my blog reader.”
And they were right.
I had broken the unwritten social contract. I had committed to keeping SCL about SCL. It wasn’t designed to be an aggregator of all things Jon Acuff. An occasional link to an article is one thing. But, for 30 days in a row, I cluttered the conversation I had committed to on SCL with posts for another site.
The good thing is that, although the social contract for your blog is invisible, it is fixable. When you make a mistake, you don’t have to reprint an encyclopedia.
You thank your readers for the reminder about the social contract.
You move on.
And the next time, you’ll know what to do. That’s why I don’t post a link to every JonAcuff.com post on Stuff Christians Like. Do I think it would help drive traffic? Absolutely. Do I think there are some people who aren’t reading JonAcuff.com on SCL that might like this blog? Absolutely.
But at the end of the day, the social contract I have with the readers of SCL matters more to me. I might occasionally share a link between the sites or make sure people on each site know the other one exists, but I’ll never post every link again.
What sort of social contract do you have in place with your blog readers? What do they expect from you?