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3 High-Powered Reader Engagement Tactics

In this guest post Jonathan Fields from the Career Renegade takes a look at three types of blog posts that will Engage your readers.

Three words…

Engage. Engage. Engage.

It’s the rally cry of great blogging. Heck, it’s the touchstone of powerful writing in general. When it comes to blogging, though, three major types of engagement-oriented posts really shine. Done right, each does a phenomenal job of drawing readers in and turning them into repeat visitors and evangelists.

1. Prescriptive Posts

Thoreau said, “”A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must lay it down and commence living on its hint. . . . What I began by reading I must finish by acting.” This is what prescriptive blogging is all about.

Engaging your reader with a topic that is directly relevant to their interests, then delivering a prescription that gives them something to do beyond just reading the post. The meat, in a prescriptive post, is in the advice.

Prescriptive posts often follow the format of a “tips” or action-list post. ZenHabits.net’s Leo Babauta is legendary for his tips posts. As is The Happiness Project’s Gretchen Rubin and, Lifehacker is known for offering up a tremendous library of things to do to make your life better with technology.

If you choose the prescriptive route with a post, make sure the advice you deliver is:

  • Relevant,
  • Impactful,
  • Detailed and
  • Actionable

General advice, without steps to take often reads as more bothersome than helpful. And, if you’d like to increase the chances of that post getting socially bookmarked and going viral, go beyond the standard 5-10 tips and deliver a laundry list of killer actions to take. A prescription so packed with things to do, readers will want to tag it and come back to it over and over.

2. Immersive Posts

On the other side of the engagement coin lie immersive posts. Rather than delivering things to do “beyond” the post, immersive posts “are” the thing to do. They are complete experiences with a beginning, a middle and an end.

They are often personal stories, insights, revelations or vivid experiences. Check out James Chartrand from MenWithPens.ca for not only great storytelling, but advice on how to do it better, too.

Immersive posts draw the reader in, sweep them along, wrap them with emotion and sensation and deliver them into the post as if they were there, side by side with the author. They may serve up a moral at they wind down, but it’s not about what comes next. It’s about what just happened.

Immersive posts can be incredibly powerful. But they often also require a level of writing and storytelling ability that goes beyond what’s required from a solid prescriptive post, where the quality of the advice matters more than telling of the story.

3. Feedback Posts

Liz Strauss taught me about this a few months into my career as a blogger. If you want to engage your readers, give them the space to participate in the conversation.

We often feel like we should be delivering complete posts, packed with all the answers, roadmaps and conclusion. But, reality is, many times our readers have even better information and insights than we have. And, they’re happy to share…if we just give them the chance.

So, consider exploring posts that ask a question, offer “some” of your thoughts on the question, then turn it over to your readers and let them to finish the post for you.

The first time I did this was when I was writing a post that I’d planned to be a set of funny rules for my then 6-year old daughter. My intention was to write 10 rules. But, then Liz’s voice popped into my head and I stopped writing at 6 and turned it over to the community to finish and what unfolded in the comments was amazing.

Wrapping it all up

Whichever approach to engagement you choose, next time you sit down at the keyboard with the intent of engaging your readers, think about deliberately choosing either a prescriptive, immersive or feedback post. Then, rise to the challenge of delivering on the promise of your chosen format.

Look at each post as another opportunity to engage, uplift and enlighten

So, I’m curious. Which do you tend to write?

And, which do you prefer to read?

Share your thoughts in the comments…

[Bio: Jonathan Fields writes the Career Renegade and Awake@TheWheel blogs and is the author of the forthcoming book, Career Renegade: How To Make A Great Living Doing What You Love]

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Chester says:

    I think mine are considered to be Immersive Posts. They’re easier to write.

  2. I am trying serious posts(Part 1, Part 2 … ) on my blog, and its workingout for my blog

  3. I like feedback posts, they usually get a pretty good response from my readers.

  4. htnmmo says:

    Of the three you mentioned, I don’t focus on any particular type. I’ve written in all three styles and I haven’t seen any difference in response.

    You for got one. I remember reading one of your posts a while ago about being controversial.

    On one of my sties I wrote on some topics that may not have been exactly controversial, but I’ve expressed my position on certain topics and then the opposing comments came, and then the comments defending my original position.

    But I don’t have much success with comments. Maybe because I don’t have tech focused websites. A lot of people email me instead of commenting.

    I decided to start a blog where I can put my thoughts on my internet work. Don’t expect much in the way of traffic so I’m not putting ads.

    I don’t try to be controversial but my opinions sometimes are. Probably like this recent one on wondering if there’s a blogging bubble

  5. Sandra Cobb says:

    Yikes. I think I’ve been pretty boring thus far. I’ve had a few Immersive posts, but probably not as many as I’d like to think. I’ve only used prescriptive when “teaching” how to do something, and even then, I didn’t take advantage bulleting them, which would make them stand out more.

    Thanks for these tips. I’ll try them all!

    FIP Blogging – feedback, immersive, prescriptive… that will help me remember.

  6. jhay says:

    I found that prescriptive posts have worked well in my blog. It’s surprising to know how many friends and new readers have found most of my posts having useful tricks and tips about getting the most out of their PCs.

  7. I think this post is the worst post ever on Problogger. I mean OMG. Problogger is meant to show us new ways and give us tips and suggestions to improve our blog, traffic, and content, and more. But this is not related to anything Problogger has ever posted before.

    Regards: rizzy
    http://twitter.com/rizzy81

  8. Derek says:

    I think I’m in the minority when I say this, but I prefer thought provoking stories. I don’t need action plans or tips, but just some great examples of people who did things that worked.

    For example, Malcolm Gladwell does a great job of this in both The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers

  9. Lately, I’ve been trying to write more Prescriptive posts, though I see now that I can probably make them more engaging and compelling to action.

    Of the three types you’ve listed, it seems like the Prescriptive ones take the longest to write (since I think they should include some research and resource links in them).

    Once I have more of an audience, I think the Feedback Posts will become more effective for me.

    I guess what I tended to write most were more Commentary posts…either a response or counter-opinion or observation about what I’ve experienced, heard, seen, or read about.

    As a reader, I actually enjoy reading all three types of posts, if the topics interested me, of course. Though, I’m most likely to leave a comment on the Feedback Posts.

    Thanks for the great suggestions!

  10. Zoe says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I think you’ve done an excellent job of breaking down different means of engagement. I tend to write “immersive” posts, because it feels more natural for me.

    But I recently started experimenting with feedback posts (actually, Liz Strauss’ style was an influence for me too!), and so far it’s gotten wonderful engagement! One of my readers called it blog-wiki style.

    Thanks for this post.

  11. Wow, that link you provided for Men With Pens is the kind of blog I’ve been looking for for a long time. Thank you!

  12. Don Osborne says:

    Tell me a story (true to life, maybe yours) – Give me a challenge that i have to ponder (because it just might move me forward) – Allow me to dialogue with you (via a comment you actually read) you think about it and comment back via a new post.

  13. Blog Expert says:

    I like feedback posts. Chris Brogan does this and has built an awesome community om his blog.

  14. Sam Bradley says:

    This is a great post, and this is information that I will use starting today.

    Comments are the lifeblood of a Weblog, and you have done an excellent job highlighting the need here.

    Although I tend to write more immersive posts, I am branching out, including yesterday’s 5 newsroom tips to improve your blog today.

    It never occurred to me that I should have invited readers to suggest a 6th or 7th. Brilliant. Thank you.

  15. Reading this article I got the idea that certain Myers-Briggs personality types might be better suited to write certain article types. I am definitely an ISTJ and think I would be better for Prescriptive Posts. Maybe someone who is outgoing and feeling (ENFJ) would be better at Immersive Posts? What does anyone else think of this?

  16. Alice says:

    Yep, certainly agree with most of the commenter’s on here, feedback posts are best at generating a reader response, I plan to use them extensively on my blogs.

  17. When you are new to blogging and you write a feedback post that receives only a few responses. Don’t be discouraged. Keep working at it and over time the responses will start to truly grow.

  18. @ Culinary Cory I have to keep telling myself this because most of the time it seems like I working in a closet and no one ever see any thing I do.

  19. htnmmo says:

    Want to engage readers…

    Take the time after posting a story on a popular blog to see if anyone who has been reading this blog for a while took the time to write a relevant comment that might be sitting in limbo :(

  20. Rahul says:

    The post that are included in my blog is mostly the voices of the youth, so that makes more of a readership post.

  21. Alberto says:

    A lot of my posts are open for feedback, and I do find it extremely useful since I never try to pass myself off as the absolute expert on any topic, nor do I try to coerce others towards my viewpoint.

  22. LaMystique says:

    Well, this pretty much sums it up. AND you’ve given me some great ideas to expand my mind map too. Thanks :)

  23. Phailpail says:

    I don’t think any of my posts fit into any of the categories you described, since I write mostly borderline insane humor. They’re definitely not prescriptive and not feedback, and not what I’d call immersive, either.

  24. htnmmo says:

    I guess my domain name is throwing comments in moderation?

  25. Scott Rooks says:

    Very thought provoking post. I know that I have discovered recently and like the prescriptive post. I do admit to being very intriqued by the feedback post. Thanks for distinguishing the difference in these post styles.

    I believe we need to disect what we are doing, why we do it, and how it works. This way we can begin to strengthen our abilities so we can climb the latter of success in our blogging efforts.

    Thanks for getting me to another rung on the ladder!

  26. I try to vary it over the time. Now I will write an immersive post.

  27. I go for the Prescriptive Posts. I howerver like the idea of feedback posts and will try some of them and see the results. It is always good to get the clients to actively participate.

    Thanks.

  28. I go for the Prescriptive Posts. I however like the idea of feedback posts and will try some of them and see the results. It is always good to get the clients to actively participate.

    Thanks.

  29. Hey Darren. thanks for this post! its very refreshing to read – I agree witht he immersive post and this method of writing – I feel that I enjoy and relate to blogs that write in this manner and its great to read this post and absorb all that you recommend in it…

    many thanks!
    ruben ricart

  30. I do a combination of immersive and feedback posts. I often ask for feedback because I enjoy the conversation that develops. I’m going to check out Men With Pens right now, thanks for the tip!

  31. Well thank you very much for this insight. I am very new to blogging. I have spent the last couple of days teaching myself how to blog, by reading posts like these. I find it all very helpful.

    I am going down the road of immersive blogging. I have alot to tell about my life. Im just not sure yet, how to put the tips in. That is something I will have to take my time and learn.

    Thank you for your help.

    Angela

  32. Jade Craven says:

    Jonathan, this is really one of the best guest posts I’ve read on problogger! I

    Right now, I prefer to write prescriptive posts. I’ve been out of practice with my writing for about 18 months, and this is the easiest to do while re learning the ropes in this medium.

    I love to read truely immersive posts. These type of posts can really sweep you away and make the reader feel connected with the blogger. I turned from a mildly interested fan to an passionate problogger reader after readin an immersive style of post a months back.

    Thanks again for a really thought provoking post. :)

  33. J.D. Meier says:

    Great frame for engagement – prescriptive, immersive, and feedback.

    I’m a fan of prescriptive guidance. I love stories too, but I find the gems are few and far between. It really depends on whether I’m in “solve a problem’ or “read for fun” mode.

    I prefer to write prescriptive guidance, but that’s because I write technical books. That said, I share a story now and then, but optimize most of my blogs around solving problems. That said, maybe for the new year I’ll share more stories and leverage feedback blogs.

  34. Great comments, everyone.

    Another interesting point, I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers I know tend to write the types of posts they like to read, which makes perfect sense. We generally like to produce in the same mode we process.

    But, in a way, that may also limit the appeal of your content to readers with similar “delivery mode” preferences and turn away readers who like your content, but prefer other posting styles.

    So, why not experiment with introducing a variety of posting styles? If you notice a bump in readership, comment volume, subscribers, that’s a reasonable sign that the mixed approach is better engaging your readers.

  35. Sarah Jo says:

    As soon as I submit this post, I’m going to revisit a post I just scheduled and craft a better way to engage my audience by helping me solve the problem. Great advice!

  36. Scott Mahler says:

    I think each style you wrote about work well, it all depends on what your topic for that post is about. For example; my blog is a companion to my website, which offers my services as a website developer. A lot of my posts are about describing what a website developer does and why it behooves the reader to hire a credible professional. I have also written a couple of how-tos. I haven’t written any tip posts, but I do enjoy reading them, so I’m thinking I’ll have to incorporate some of those as well. By the way, thanks for your tips.

    http://www.datexmedia.wordpress.com

  37. I think I tend to write prescriptive posts most, but I sometimes add a question at the end. I really should do more of that, just like this post did. I look for prescriptive posts myself (might explain why I write them), seeking nuggets of useful information to take away.

  38. Tumblemoose says:

    I tend to be more immersive in my postings but I usually ask my readership a question or two and specifically ask for feedback on some items. I want to hear what they think. It’s all part of that balance beam of being an authority without being arrogant. I consider my posts to be a benevolent dictatorship rather than a totalitarian regime.

    Cheers

    George

  39. YRP Jen says:

    Thanks for really breaking these down as I think it will help me stay on task for future blogs I write. I tend to write the 1st & 3rd types. Here are recent ones that I would really appreciate any feedback upon … http://blog.yourrealtyportal.com/2008/12/01/post-it-forward/ and http://blog.yourrealtyportal.com/2008/12/15/holiday-curb-appeal-sells-listings/.

    For the new year, I need to focus on figuring out how to get people to even see my blogs. So much to learn from the Blog community and ProBlogger! Thanks :)

  40. Suresh says:

    Well , Getting the readers to the blog using quality content and SEO is the first task and getting them back once again is the problem of establishing identity and giving a feeling of useful for me .

    Over the time only the quality of content and good presentation will help.

  41. I write two blogs. One is on job search and one is on ideas. To date, both have been largely prescriptive but I’ve had the most luck in gaining comments when I have written about the psychological aspects (being out of work, launching a new idea). I absolutely love the posts on this site. They make me think – every time – about how I can do things better.

    When I get immersed in my own blogs, the perspective and longer view come from ProBlogger. Thank you!

    Quixoting – http://quixoting.typepad.com
    Spin Strategy – http://quixoting.typepad.com/spin_strategy

  42. This was an excellent article. I’m just starting my blog, but my first few posts have been prescriptive or immersive.

    @David A. Shaver
    I think you might have something there with the Meyers Briggs point. I am also an ISTJ and I love explaining things to people. I was married to an ENFP so I can really appreciate how one’s personality profile can greatly influence their communication style.

    When I really think about the three styles, prescriptive seems like the one I would gravitate towards most in my own writing. But as a reader, I really enjoy all three styles.

    I will take this article as a challenge to be more intentional in my writing and to definitely incorporate more articles that actively engage readers in the discussion.

    Thank you so much for this article and for all of the great comments!

  43. Caleb says:

    “Engage” is one of my secret mantras…the very word alone causes one to ACT!

    Theses three styles of writing are the styles I constantly toggle through when preparing content for my blog…I just didn’t have a name for them.

    Of course, a bit of all 3 in EVERY post wouldn’t hurt ;)

  44. i usually write complete posts. Im going to have to hold back. Maybe we blog b/c we want to say everything that we think about all at once. This wouldn’t leave room for anyone. So, I think that Im going to start writing complete yet unfinished posts and get those who want speak out the permission to do so. thanks

  45. Mike says:

    Great reading and some excellent points very well written. I tend to write immersive posts, but like to read prescriptive ones!
    I would add one to your list, and that is Informational posts. These don’t fall into any of your categories, but there is a place for pure information, with no call to action – for example on a travel blog.

  46. L.L. Barkat says:

    Came over from GoodWord.

    I write what’s on my mind. My mind is a crazy place. Sometimes it’s bossy (prescriptive). Sometimes poetic or humorous or I-am-so-in-love-with-the-things-of-the-world (immersive). And always interactive (feedback)… unless of course I’m in a bad mood and don’t feel like talking.

    Which brings me to the point. I think the power of blogging often lies in the power of personality– and this tends to run like a golden (or scarlet or mud-brown) thread through any blogger’s posts.

  47. I’m trying to write more immersive posts in my blog. In the end, I think a lot of connecting with people is about stories — theirs and yours and how they interconnect. Stories give people something to relate to.

  48. Great tips! I try to engage my readers by asking for their thoughts at the end of a post. Especially if I am writing about a sensitive topic.

  49. George says:

    Am just getting frustrated by each day that comes, seems not to be doing the right thing.

  50. Thanks so much for the post. I have begun to blog and appreciate having the tutorial. I am looking forward to putting your advice into action and seeing the results.