Last week I had the opportunity to chat with a local journalism student. She was working on a project and was tasked with talking to a business professional on the topic of blogs and content marketing. Troy must be fresh out of real pros, because, well, she decided to talk to me. And I’m glad she did because we had a great conversation about using blogs for business.
One of the questions that came up during our chat was how you get someone to read your blog. I told her it was pretty easy – you just had to trick them. And she seemed amused by that. Below are a few ways that I regularly trick people into reading the posts that I write across the Web. Let me know if I’m missing any.
Walk them through a process
I tend to write a lot of tutorials and best practices-type posts both here and in my regular posts over at SmallBizTrends. Knowing that readers are often looking to accomplish X, Y or Z, I do my best to help them through that process in a very simple way. Personally, I think these posts are often the most valuable because they’re ones that people can simply print out and pass along to someone who may find the information useful. I’ve had many people tell me that their boss handed them a collection of my posts to read when they started a new job as “homework”. I love that! We know that not everyone can afford to hire an Internet marketing company like Outspoken Media to take care of their needs, so these posts are intended for them. Want to attract the DIYer? Give them the blueprint they need without any of the sell. You’ll trick ‘em every time.
Uncomplicated something that’s complicated
Another way to trick people into reading your blog is to make them feel smart. One way I like to do this is to make the confusing, less so. For example, sometime this week a big story is going to break in your industry. Once it does, everyone is going to take the same three-paragraph news story and turn it into their very own 800 word blog post, sharing the (same) facts and what they think it means to the larger public. And that’s fine – but most people don’t want to read 27 posts on the same topic. They want to read ONE post that breaks down all the others and tells them only what they want to know. Why not make that one post yours and make your voice the signal in all the noise? Let everyone else chase the ambulance, you hang around to offer the real story.
Be a storyteller
People are attracted to stories because they give us context, someone to root for and deliver the “what’s at stake” needed to keep people interested. A few weeks ago Joanna Pen wrote a post for Problogger on using fiction techniques to improve your blog and I’d really encourage you to study those and look for ways to insert them into your blogging. Creating identifiable characters, using setting, having a distinguishable plot and creating dialogue are the basics of all good writing, regardless of its form. People relate to stories. Use them.
One of my most favorite ways to trick people into your blog is to solve their problems. Whether it’s debunking common Facebook mistakes, helping them hire a qualified SEO, or teaching them to search better – people can’t help but read content that fixes their problems and helps them get on their way. If you want some insight into what problems your customers need help solving, take a look at your site analytics – what are they searching for, how are they finding you, and what posts do they seem glued to? Your answers (and post topics) are waiting for you.
Ignore what they tell you – people turn to the Web to be entertained. Otherwise, they’d be reading books. Sure, they want to learn about search engine optimization, sheep herding, antiquing, whatever, but they want to do it while they’re experiencing some belly laughs. When you don’t entertain people, they either get bored or they angry. For a recent example of the latter, check out an encounter Matt Inman had last week. That sums things up pretty well.
If you’re not particularly funny or you’re that person who never gets the joke, avoid this technique. While most would call humor subjective, I’m a firm believer in that you’re either funny or you’re not. If you’re not sure which bucket you fall into, ask someone who knows you. They’ll be able to tell you pretty quickly.
If you want to get people’s attention and make them pull up a chair – challenge what your audience knows to be true. Maybe you’re taking a different stance than all their favorite gurus, maybe you’re challenging something they were taught as a child, or maybe you’re telling them it’s their own fault the recession laid them off. Whatever it is, people perk up when you kick the chair out of from under them and give them something different to ponder. If only because they’re sitting on the floor wondering what just happened. Offering an unrelenting opinion challenges them to think about things in a different light and makes them stick around.
Give them new tools
People are addicted to new and improved ways of doing things. Don’t get me wrong – that doesn’t mean they’re going to get off their butt (or Twitter) to actually DO it, it just means they like the idea of being more productive. Help them achieve their delusions by reviewing new tools, new products, new blogs, new sales models, new people, new resources, etc. Help them pack their arsenal and they’ll be loyal to you forever.
Unite them over common experiences
Whether it’s for lonely entrepreneurs or disgruntled copywriters, craft posts aimed at uniting a certain segment of the population. We all have those moments where we feel like we’re the only dog in this fight or like no one appreciates the work that we do. There’s a reason sites like Clients From Hell or Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising are so popular. We like commiserating.
Below are some tricks I used to make people read my posts. What ties all the different methods together? They’re all based on providing unique value. Make that your mission and the rest will follow.
But those are just my suggestions. What types of posts or “tricks” do you swear by? Sound off.