Sometimes you publish a post and put all your heart and soul into it and it falls flat. Sometimes the opposite happens. Something goes viral and you had no idea this would happen. Readers, eh? Who knows what they like? What pleases them? What sort of content do they want to like, tweet, pin, or +1?
As it turns out, it is not a matter of pure luck after all (unless you want to count those baby or cat videos that go viral on YouTube, then it might be luck). There are things you can do to make sure you give your blog post the best chance of success. It’s not out of your control.
While there is no proven formula for a blog post that will engage your readers, entice them into commenting and sharing, all the successful posts do seem to have a fair bit in common.
They do have things in common that you can apply to your blog post and see it soar. You just have to do this consciously and diligently. You have to do it over and over again, and stay consistent.
So where are these things exactly? I am glad you asked. I have made a list – a checklist of sorts – to keep handy every time you publish something. Especially if your goal is to connect with your audience, your objective is for your work to resonate and make a deep impact.
Here’s how you do it:
#1 Always write for your ideal audience
You might be sick of hearing this advice by now but this is the ultimate truth. You can’t write a post and hope that it will appeal to every single person on this earth. That would be ludicrous.
You have to choose a specific reader when you are writing to them. If your business caters to more than one kind of person, then make a conscious choice. Is it going to be a mum of two young children or a corporate executive? If you try to please both, you will end up pleasing none.
Your ideal customer profile should be so specific that you can actually imagine that person sitting across you. You know what they like and what they don’t. You are writing from a place of service and you truly want to help this work. Picture this person clearly and you will make a deeper connection.
#2 Choose the right headline
Some people throw their arms up in defeat and say that they are no good at writing headlines. Some people like to copy others and create formulaic headlines without paying attention to their ideal audience and the industry they are in.
Can you imagine writing a headline that you would come across on a marketing blog for an audience of highly spiritual people. Do you use the word ‘abundance’ when writing a headline for a group of designers or use the word ‘killer’ when writing for the people who practice law of attraction?
Always pay attention to what works in your industry first. See what sort of posts get attention on social media platforms. Make a swipe file and collect these headlines for inspiration. This will make your job so much easier.
Always remember, either go for arousing curiosity in the reader or list straight up benefits of reading your post, and you won’t go wrong. The job of a headline is to get attention, and once you do that you have other things you can focus on.
#3 Write in a conversational tone
How many articles get passed around that are dry, drab, and written in an academic style?
Not many, right?
This is for a reason. People want to feel like they are being part of a conversation. They want to hear from a friend. They don’t want to be lectured. If you are still writing in a corporate style for on your company blog, full of jargon and mumbo jumbo that nobody cares about, let alone understand, how fast can you stop?
If you genuinely can’t write like that, imagine receiving a question from a reader or a customer that you can answer on the phone only. Then say it out loud and watch your language. Have it transcribed and edit it for brevity and clarity. Not only is this conversation, this is you. This is your truest voice and people love hearing from live humans.
#4 Use the word ‘you’ liberally
‘You’ is one of the most persuasive words in English language. Use it.
Many people are still writing in first person, meaning they use words like, ‘I, we, …’ in their work. While it is okay to write a piece and focus on your point of view, for example, when you are telling a personal story, or talking about lessons learned, address your reader in your content.
You will see your engagement increase many times over.
#5 Empathize with your reader
The opening paragraph is something most people forget to pay attention to. For them, nailing their headline is the Holy Grail.
Let me tell you something, the job of a headline is to click something and nothing more. If you want people to continue reading, work on your openings. If your openings are boring, people will not stick around to read more.
The best way to open a post is to empathize with your reader. Say something to let them know you understand them. It could be that you get their pain or you painting a picture of what is possible.
Step into their shoes and show them you understand what it’s like to be them.
#6 Tell Stories
We, humans, love stories. We are wired to do so. Well told stories never get old, look at how well the fiction genre does in books, look how popular epic sagas become in the theaters. Yet somehow people are afraid to tell stories on their blogs. They feel they are not good story tellers or they don’t have any stories. Not true.
Your biggest story explains your why – Why you started your blog or business? What made you the person you are today? Readers want to know your journey. They want to understand the odds you had to overcome to get to this point. They are rooting for you. In you, they see the better version of themselves. Personal posts do really well in terms of engagement and elicit a huge level of support from your people.
You can also tell business related stories. Take your readers behind the scenes and share something. Give them a sneak peek into something that is releasing soon, share your buyer success stories – make them the hero.
Sometimes it is easier to make a point with a story. You might write a how-to post explaining the merits of something or you could tell a story and boom – you’re done. Try it and see what happens.
#7 Create a common enemy
Depending your topic, what is that thing that frustrates you the most about your industry? What are some of the myths you can’t wait to set straight?
Let people know who stands in their way of achieving true success. Is it the media? Is hype filled, red highlighted copy or junk food. Whatever it is, identify your enemy and people will get behind you to take it down.
#8 Appeal to the right emotion
Jonal Berger in his book Contagious talks about hitting the right emotion in people if you want your content to spread.
He says that people are much more likely to share something if the content creates a feeling of awe. If you can make them sit up and take notice, if you can create a sense of wonder, people will respond positively.
He further explains that the main emotions that makes people want to engage with your blog post are those that lead to a high arousal. These are excitement and amusement. Make people laugh or surprise them.
On the other hand, you don’t want to create a feeling of low arousal in people by making them feel sad or content. Generally speaking, they won’t be motivated to share it as much.
#9 Give pure value
People share things that go above and beyond the normal when it comes to giving value.
This can be a case study that is truly remarkable. An interview with someone who is known for not giving interviews. News that make a true difference in the lives of many people, a post explaining something in a new way.
People can see the difference between a post that is thrown together hastily to fill up space and one that is written with the sole reason of helping people. Give away some of your best stuff for free.
#10 Create a wow experience
According to Michael Hyatt, when you create a wow experience, people have no choice but to take action and tell their friends.
When you ask somebody what is a wow experience, they would say things like, ‘When my daughter was born, or the day I got married, or the day I saw Niagara Falls in real life.’
So how can you create the feeling of wow in your blog post? Hyatt says a wow experience exceeds our expectations and surprises us (over deliver). It creates anticipation (the right headline). It resonates with the reader and makes them believe in something bigger than themselves (the big why). It’s a moment when you see things more clearly and is universal (same for people). It is transcendent (people want to share it).
#11 Choose a primary goal
You want your blog post to be successful, that’s a given, but what does it actually mean?
- Do you want people sharing it over the networks?
- Do you want people leaving thoughtful comments?
- What does reader engagement look like to you?
If you want social shares, sometimes a big list post will work great. You can also go ahead and link to the influencers in your post and ask them to share it with your followers. You can create an infographic. You can create an epic guide.
If you want heartfelt engagement, you are better off making a single point. Tell a story, link to research, talk about your topic in detail but make one main point. You can do a post of controversial nature, if you want to get people talking but just make sure it is not a gimmick and for sake of attention itself.
#12 Build an audience for you blog
The best content on the web won’t get any attention unless you get it in front of people. For reader engagement, you actually need to have a reasonable sized audience to get the momentum going.
If you have a small audience and you don’t take time to promote your content, no matter how good it is, it can get only so much engagement. Only a fraction of people actually reading the content actually engage with it. If you want to increase the numbers of people taking action, increase the overall numbers.
Continually build your own audience. Get your content syndicated. Always be driving traffic to your own site.
#13 Publish on sites of high authority
Sometimes your content doesn’t get much traction because, let’s face it, you are unknown in your field. People are strapped for time. They have endless choices of content so they make the right choice and look at the best.
This is the difference between publishing a blog post on your own site and obtaining a handful of shares or comments, and publishing the same post on a popular blog and getting thousands of shares and tons of comments.
The content you publish is the same, the difference is where the content is originating from. All things being equal, a tweet sharing your post by a popular blogger will get your hundreds of retweets, as opposed to when you do that yourself.
#14 Use high quality images
It’s amazing to see so many people write and not use any images in their post. Images breathe life into your post. Starting off with a very compelling image will pull your reader straight in and capture their attention. They want to read on and find out more.
Some people make the mistake of using stock photos with cheesy poses and expressions. Don’t do that. Get creative.
#15 Pay attention to your post formatting
Keep your posts screen friendly. Make them easy to read on a computer, laptop, tablet or a smart phone. Using huge blocks of text will tire your readers’ eyes. Use lots of white space, break up the text by using images, infographics and other visuals.
Use bold, bullets and numbered lists to highlight important information. Remember, many people just scan online. You’ve got to get their attention first before you can get them to engage.
Have a look at your sub-headings. Do they stand out? If you leave the text out and just read the sub-headings, do they tell the whole story? Sometimes a well-crafted sub-heading can capture the attention of a scanner.
#16 Try experimenting with different lengths
Research shows that long-form content tends to get more shares and have a bigger chance of going viral.
If you normally write short posts, try mixing them with longer pieces. Go into detail and write more in-depth information. Most bloggers shy away from doing this because this requires a lot of work, so do this and you can stand out.
#17 Make it easy to comment
Ask for comments. Show people that you truly want to hear from them, that their opinion matters to you. Respond to them. Be present in your own community. Don’t ignore people.
Show your readers they are part of the conversation by taking a thoughtful, well written comment and featuring it. You can either write a blog post on it and make them feel special, or share it on social media. Some bloggers install a plugin which features the top commenters in their community.
When you feature a reader, you are saying thank you for taking time out to leave a well thought out and meaningful comment. They’d be even more likely to share your content in future.
#18 Warm up your audience when you email
Your readers are not visiting your blog on a regular basis. They are busy. You’ve got to remind them that you have a blog post out. However, don’t just jump into the content directly. Don’t say, ‘I just published a blog post, here is the link, go read it. Share and leave a comment.’
Invite people in and they’d be much more willing to interact with your content. Share something personal in your email, a backstory; give them some personality. Just like a friend, don’t jump to a call to action straightaway.
This one really works. You will have people emailing you about their own little stories. Try it.
#19 Encourage sharing
You have got to ask.
It goes without saying, but add sharing buttons to your content in prominent places. Don’t be shy about it. Use hashtags to promote shares on social media. Use ClicktoTweet within your posts and ask people to share sound bites (aha moments).
Link to older content. People won’t share your content is they don’t know what exists. Give them a chance to discover your older content by linking to it.
Add one call to action. If you ask them to do too many things, you will end up overwhelming them and they will not do any.
#20 Write the kind of content people crave
Content that inspires: Blog posts that remind people the life is short, that every human is important, to believe in bigger things and that dreams do come true.
Content that connects with emotions: Things that make your readers cry, laugh out loud, or shock them in amazement.
Content that tells stories: That takes people on a journey, reveals secrets and teaches them to never give up. Stories where the underdog wins.
Content that teaches: Content that gives your audience action steps, and life lessons, challenges their thinking and tells them what to do next. Gives them very practical, hands on tips and makes them smarter.
That’s it. These are my top twenty tips to get readers engaging with your content.
If you found this useful, kindly share it with your friends so they too can benefit from it. (See, one clear call to action.)