3 Lessons I Learned From A Popular Blog

Veterans Affairs Building, Miles City

Image by dave_mcmt via Flickr

I was warned about having a thick skin if I chose to blog but I had no idea about the reality of that advice.

A couple of weeks ago one of my blogs was chosen to the top spot on Word Press.  In a way I was honored and pleased but the amount of extra traffic it generated was daunting.  The extremists came out of the woodwork.

I administer two blogs.  This blog is for struggling insurance agents who need help with marketing.  They tend to be trained is what to do and say when they get in front of someone but not how to get there.  Hopefully, this blog provides some ideas to help them.

I also am a practicing insurance agent.  I administer another blog for my friends and clients to help them keep track of the confusing world of health care and health insurance.

An article that was intended as a neutral explanation for my clients was turned into a politically charged piece.  I appreciate the right for everyone to have an opinion, whether or not they share mine, on health care and health insurance.

For the record, I did not vote for Obama, Pelosi or Reid.  I definitely did not vote for Sebelius.  Unfortunately, they control health care and health insurance, right now.  The polls in November may change things.  Personally, I hope they do.

That being said, I did not learn a political lesson.  I already know who for and how I will vote in November.  I did learn a few lessons about blog marketing.  I wanted to share a couple of them with other agents who are considering blogs of their own.

 You will be misunderstood

My article was about why health insurance rates were increasing.  At no time did I make any value judgments about Obamacare.  In my opinion, there are many good things in the new law but it is an inescapable fact that someone has to pay the bills.  Unless doctors, labs and hospitals are going to give their services away for free, either the insurance companies, tax payers or insurance owners are going to have to pay the extra charges.

I learned that regardless of how careful you are in your blog, if you address anything that is in the least controversial, your readers are going to accuse you of saying things you did not mean and read what they want to, regardless of what you say.

I started the day out by responding to every comment but by 2:00 I got tired of being insulted.  I appreciate the passion people show for their opinions, whether or not I agree with them.  I know that regardless of anything I say I will not change anyone’s mind.

If you elect to blog, my advice is the same that your mother taught you.  “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

 The internet is not an excuse to be rude

As a kid there was no such thing as anonymity.  Even when you told your best friend not to say anything, the school bully usually found out when you said something bad “behind his back.”

Blogging is a little different.  By the very nature of the medium, what you say can be read and judged by anyone in the world.  What you meant for your client base can be seen by anyone and there are plenty of people who are not shy about providing their input.

What I learned is that you are free to write anything you want but don’t be surprised if someone you do not even know says something “out of the blue.”  If you do not like it, acknowledge their right to their opinion and move on. 

There are people who live for nothing else but to stir up trouble.  I know it is hard for me to; and I assume I am not the only one, ignore someone when they provoke me.  After all, I don’t consider myself a wimp.  I arrive at my conclusions based on my own study and don’t easily back down.  Never-the-less, I learned that sometimes “discretion is the better part of valor.”

As I am neither a member of the legal profession, member of congress or President of the United States there is nothing that I can do about Obamacare other than vote in November.  I need to limit my battles to the ones I can win.

Blogging can take your mind off getting the job done

As the extremists started commenting on my blog I felt compelled to answer each comment.  Unfortunately, for a while, my email box was dinging before I had a chance to finish my answer to a previous comment.

The problem is that not one of the people who commented on my blog lives anywhere close to me.  If I hold to the rules that a prospect is someone you can see on a favorable basis, none of the people who commented on my blog was a prospect.  In my attempt to be courteous to total strangers, I forgot for a couple of hours that I need to focus my online efforts to people I can do business with.

I blog, along with other on line marketing efforts, not for political reasons but for business reasons.  As a consultant I can work with any insurance agent in the nation but as an insurance agent, my clientele are limited to the states I am licensed in.

The large number or readers is flattering but if I cannot do business with them, it is an unproductive use of my time during work hours.  Lest anyone get their panties in a bunch, I am not saying that anyone is worthless, I am just saying that during business hours I need to focus on business productivity and not my personal opinions.

I cannot get back the time I wasted this morning but hopefully, you can use it as a motivation to constantly be aware of what you are doing.  When it is time to play, play hard.  When it is time to work, work hard.


About The Insurance Barn

Husband of 1, father of 2, health insurance agent and insurance trainer.
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2 Responses to 3 Lessons I Learned From A Popular Blog

  1. gospelx says:

    Greetings! Like many, I discovered your other blog via WordPress’ Freshly Pressed Picks or whatever it is. If found the article quite informative, but I have to admit that the best part about it is the fact that it sparked serious conversation. My favorite thing about most blogs these days is the conversational element – and you did receive some quality comments. Even though I am sure that there were some terrible comments present (I admit I didn’t read anything, since I could see where some of the discussion was going), you brought about some good discussion as well.

    This naturally caused me to follow some links back to this blog, and this particular commentary. I appreciate your sharing your experience with the audience that visits here. You learned some valuable lessons. The most important is of course that you will be misunderstood. That is often a problem with everyday communication, and blogs are no exception. Without the benefit of an editor to help minimize that issue, we are left to our own faulty devices. Unfortunately when the writing environment is free of any real restrictions, our views do come out subtly but somehow noticeably. While you tried to be neutral and did an admirable job of it, your perspective was revealed in the last sentence of the third paragraph when you mentioned the “mandates that Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Reid and Mr. Obama forced into law last March.” Subtle thing, but people looking to defend their view will jump on it. Of course, things were made more clear when you said that “Mr. Obama and Ms. Sebelius can scream all they want […]” That is much more charged and hardly neutral. The last thing that needs pointing out is that the arrangement of the text was also suggestive of your point of view on the issue, with a listing of good and bad – in that particular order. When you place the bad news after the good news you emphasize the negatives about a situation, which again suggests a certain bias. Unfortunately, I am not skilled enough in HTML or any protocols WordPress uses to suggest that you should have used side-by-side columns to list information, but I can say that text arrangement can reveal quite a bit about what you may not be saying.

    It was a learning experience, and I am happy that you shared your experience with everyone. I am just sorry that you received more exposure than you wanted. But it is a good way to find out about how thick skinned you can be on the internet.

    • You are absolutely right. That blog was meant specifically for my clients and friend who share my own point of view. I know and appreciate the psychological tips you point out and agree 100% with you. My problem was that I violated one of the primary rules of communication, “Know your audience.” I know my clients and friends and had no desire to broadcast our opinions nationally but I forgot that once I publish something on the internet the distribution is out of my hands.

      I abhore it anytime someone says they cannot remember who their insurance agent is. The entire reason for the blog is to maintain communication with my clients so they never have to say that. I had no idea that any blog of mine would go viral. I would like to have 300-500 readers but yesterday was too much.

      Personally, I have read the PPACA and find many good things in it but I am smart enough to know someone has to pay for the new benefits and it is not going to be the government or insurance industry and it is unfair to tell medical providers they have to work for free. That only leaves insurance premium payers to foot the bill. If there is another option, I am not aware of it.

      My problem is not as much with the bill, even though I have read it and find things that are controversial and wasteful. My problem is two fold. I don’t appreciate that Obama, Pelosi and Reid used a trick like Reconciliation to force through a highly controversial piece of legislation. Secondly, I do not like that the elected congress have given so much power to the unelected Secretary of Health & Human Services. Even if I wanted to vote for Obama, I would have to vote against him in order to remove Kathleen Sebelius from power.

      The bottom line is that there are strong opinions on both sides. In private I have a personal opinion, but I thought I was sharing that with people of like mind. I obviously made a wrong assumption. Thanks for understanding.

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