After her last post on how to accept advice, Shareba Abdul is back this week with tips on what to do when somebody asks you for blogging advice.
Following up on my last article about taking advice, I thought I’d share how to give advice too.
Giving advice can be difficult. Not only do you need to be sensitive to people’s feelings, but you also have to make suggestions that will actually be helpful. So what do you do if someone comes to you for blogging advice? Well, first of all, you need to decide if you can (and want to) help them.
If you don’t feel qualified enough to give good feedback, say so.
Maybe the person who approached you thinks you’re an expert in a field that you actually know very little about. It’s a good idea to be honest, and maybe refer the person to someone who knows more than you do (if possible).
If you don't want to help, tell the person nicely.
There are many reasons why you might not want to give advice. It could be that you’re too busy, or you don’t feel that the person asking has similar values to you. Whatever the reason is, it’s ok to decline. Don’t agree begrudgingly, because it won’t be a good experience for you or the person you’re helping.
If you're sitting on the fence, think about it
Giving advice can be a great way to give back to the blogging community. Think about if there was ever a time when someone helped you with your blog. Did it make a difference to you?
If you know you're skilled enough to help, but you're not sure that you want to be a role-model, that's ok. You’re not alone. Renowned food blogger, David Lebovitz, wrote about why he was hesitant to give advice in this article from 2011:
“For years I’ve generally shied away from giving advice or offering opinion. After all, everyone’s blog is different and like lots of other things, it’s impossible to pinpoint what makes a blog click or even how to do it. What suits one person often doesn’t become another and people get into blogging for a myriad of reasons…There’s not a “right” or “wrong” way to blog and all points are certainly open to interpretation and discussion.”
It’s important to realize, though, that giving advice isn’t the same as dictating change. Perhaps the person who asked you is just looking for a second opinion. It’s possible that they just want a different perspective on how to fix a problem they are having. Your advice should just be another voice in a conversation.
Ok, so let’s say you’ve decided that you’re capable of being helpful, and you’re willing to help – now what?
Here are 5 handy tips for giving advice
1. Identify what the person wants help with.
If someone has asked you for constructive criticism of their blog, chances are they don’t actually want to hear about everything that they are doing wrong. Ask if there is anything in particular that they want you to do look, like their recipe index or sidebar layout.
2. Give specific feedback.
Always give a constructive reason why you think your suggestion would be beneficial. For example, you might say something like “I think you might find better social media subscription rates if you move your icons into the header.”
3. Give the good with the bad.
When I worked in daycare, I was told to sandwich a negative comment in between two positive ones. So if I had to tell Timmy’s mom that he got in trouble, it would look like this:
Positive: Timmy put away all of the books today, he was so helpful!
Negative: We did have to speak to him about biting Tom though. He
understands that he made the wrong choice when he did that.
Positive: We’re so proud that he apologized to Tom without being told to, and he drew him a picture too!
Do you see what happens in this formula? The person you’re talking to hears the negative/critical point, but they don’t feel attacked.
Here’s what that conversation might look like when you’re giving constructive criticism to a blogger.
Positive: I really like the way you’ve organized your recipe index! It’s so easy to read.
Negative: I think your sidebar is a bit busy though. Maybe you can move some of the badges onto a separate page?
Positive: Your social media icons are in a good place though, they’re easy to see.
4. Follow-up on your advice.
It’s nice to contact the person that you gave advice to, and see how they’re doing. Did your advice help them? Great! Maybe you can continue the conversation and see what else they need help with.
If your advice didn’t work out for them, find out why. Maybe they didn’t understand what you told them to do.
5. Don’t give unsolicited advice.
I am totally guilty of this, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Sometimes we see a blogger doing something that we perceive as a mistake, and we’ll say something because we want to be helpful. It’s not a good idea though, and here’s why:
“Unsolicited advice sends a message that you're jumping in because they can't handle the problem,” explains writer Nadia Goodman in an article from Entrepreneur.com. “It leaves them feeling less competent and capable, undermining their ability to handle the situation themselves.”
If you really feel inclined to say something, try asking the person if they’d like your help. They might be happy that you reached out.
Shareba Abdul is a food blogger and freelance writer. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Applied Arts in Media Studies, a Diploma in Journalism, and has a passion for writing, photography, and blogging. You can check out her yummy discoveries at InSearchOfYummyness.com or connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and G+.