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How To NOT Repulse Readers And Send Them Running Scream… Um…I Mean Clicking Away

A Guest Post by Cori Padget from Write Syntax and Big Girl Branding.

In a word?

engaging-readers.jpgEngage. Engage, engage, engage, engage. Get it yet? ENGAGE! OK, I’m thinking you get it now, kinda sorta. But in case you don’t, let’s discuss it further. EN… Just kidding!

If you’re a writer, or a blogger, or someone who likes to share their thoughts and feelings with words in print (no, hair pulling and pinching don’t count… that’s over sharing and it’s not possible in print!) then you know what it’s like to write something you’ve poured your heart into, only to find it seemed to fall with a resounding splat once you exposed it to the rest of the world. The silence after streaking in all your naked glory was deafening. Not a single comment. Not a single Tweet. Heck, you couldn’t even get a lousy thumbs up! Can I get a ‘Amen’?

You’re not alone fellow wordsmith.

I feel your pain. It sucks when you write and it seems no one is interested. Or maybe they were and they did read… and just didn’t respond. Who knows? But kudos to you for baring it all and putting yourself out there anyway, even when it feels as if no one is listening.

Writing takes guts. And writing honestly takes guts and sweat. And writing honestly and in a way that engages people takes guts, sweat, and a lot of mental cursing and swearing and ice cream and chocolate. Hmnn… maybe the ice cream and chocolate part is just me.

But the reward of all that guts and sweat and ice cream and chocolate is that slowly people begin to respond. Slowly they begin to answer your questions. Slowly they begin to ask their own questions. It doesn’t happen quickly… but when you write in a way that draws your readers in and engages them in what you’re saying… responding to you becomes almost a compulsion they can’t help but obey. It’s like secret wordsmith mind control.

Dry, boring information=deafening silence.

Engaging, compelling information=deafening silence… at first. It’s a bit like sharing a first kiss with a new lover. In the eyes of one another you’re both hotter than Mister and Mrs. Smith in their skivvies. Volcanic even. Dare I say… engaging?

But you don’t kiss on the first date. You share company and spend some time together engaging, and then eventually you work up the nerve to share that first kiss. Then you share another kiss. And another. And then, all of a sudden, you’re past that first kiss and engaging like mad mating love bugs in June!

And I’m sure you’re sitting there reading this right now, getting all hot and bothered and wondering where exactly I’m going with all of this. Right?

No?

Dang, I must not be engaging enough today. Sheesh. Stroke a girl’s ego a little bit why don’t ya. This is our first kiss, and first kisses are scary!

My point is this…

If you don’t want your readers to run screaming in the opposite direction when you decide to get naked and engage them, you have to be WILLING to get naked and engage (metaphorically speaking of course). You have to be willing to write with honesty and authenticity. You have to be willing to sit down and have a conversation with your readers… one human to another.

Writing to engage people isn’t just about writing with the proper punctuation, using conjugated verbs, or avoiding fragmented sentences. It’s not about the technicality of writing it’s about the emotion of writing. It’s about the feeling behind the words you are sharing. It’s about connecting with your readers on some sort of emotional level, and making them want even more from you. Making them want to share things with you.

OK, fine… now you might be wondering how the frig you’re supposed to do that exactly. Well, glad you wondered! It’s really not rocket science, and the rules are pretty simple.

Here are my top 8.

You can also check out some more of the best writing advice. Ever.

  • Write to a specific person. Doesn’t have to be a real person, just has to be a specific person. Think of it like this. You wouldn’t write the same way to your best friend Peggy as you would to your Grandma Dot. You wouldn’t write the same way to your neighbor Jim Hanson as you would to your brother Fletch. Get specific about who you’re writing to and get on with it.
  • Write the way you talk. I’m not saying go all crazy and use a bunch of street slang and shorthand. But if you can’t read it out loud without stumbling and tripping everywhere then it’s probably not written in the same way you speak. Fix it.
  • Use simple language. Most people on the web have a grade school reading level. A handful will be at college level. Very few will be beyond that, so save that particular style of writing for the text books. Keep your writing simple and easily understandable, and it makes it easier for people to relate.
  • Tell a story, make it funny. Or heartwarming. Or motivating. Or some other suitably rousing emotion. The point is, stories engage and when you pair it with emotional triggers… you’ve got a winner!
  • Relate to your readers. Use words and language that lets them know you understand where they’re coming from and that you’re just as human as they are. They really like that. It’s when they start thinking you’re an alien that you should probably start to worry a little. Just a little.
  • Make it easy to read. Big fat paragraphs with long run on sentences send your readers screaming to people who DO know how to write properly. Break it up, use bullets, use subheads, even use occasional pictures to help break it up and engage your reader more.
  • Sleep on it. Don’t publish something at midnight, it’s a sure bet you’re slap happy and exhausted and that 10 mile long article on social prosperity is nowhere NEAR to being as compelling and engaging as you are currently deluding yourself into believing.
  • Finally, enjoy it! Write about what fascinates you. What you’re passionate about. Write about what you love. When you write about things that are important to you, it becomes clear to readers with every single new word they read, that what you’re saying is important to you. Therefore it becomes important to them!

There you have it. 8 ways to NOT repulse your readers and send them hot-footing it to the hills. How about you? Do you have any writer’s voodoo that you work on your readers to keep them hot for you and what you have to say? Are there any tidbits you can share with the rest of us on how you turn that first hesitant kiss into a full on make-out session? Do you have top secret ways to engage, engage, engage that you’re willing to come clean with? I’d love to hear them.

Warm regards,

Cori

Cori is a freelance ‘ghost’and the creative brains and dubious brawn behind her blog Big Girl Branding. She’d also like to note that ‘big’ does not mean what you think it means. It was meant to indicate being a grown up. Sigh… Of course you probably didn’t get that, and it totally loses its effect when she has to explain it. So I guess she’ll just have to put on her ‘big girl’ panties and deal with it. She’ll feel better about the whole misunderstanding though if you just visit her and say hello.

The BEST Way to Generate Lots of Comments on a Your Next Blog Post

Last week on my Photography Tips site we published a guest post titled Three Lenses Every Photographer Should Own.

The author of the guest post emailed me a few days later amazed at amazing amount of comments left on the post. While the average post on dPS gets a reasonable amount of comments this post is climbing up towards 200.

Why did it do so well in engaging readers?

There are a few reasons. The guest poster didn’t really set out to do any of them – but stumbled upon one of the best ways to get readers interacting on a blog post:

  1. He Expressed an Opinion – the post shares one persons opinion on which lenses each photographer should own. While the post itself did indicate that it was his own personal preference and that others would find other options more suited to their situations – whenever you express an opinion you’re going to get other people reacting with their own.
  2. He Made a Claim – the title was key in generating this discussion. It made a claim that every photographer should own 3 lenses. I’m not sure how intentional this was but make this type of claim and you’ll almost always get a reaction because you’ll almost always have someone who doesn’t quite fit into what you’ve proposed – and they’ll want to tell you why. Write a post about ‘essentials’, or ‘the best’ or something ‘everyone’ should do – and you’ll generally get this type of response.
  3. He Invited a Response – the post finished by asking others what they’d include in their ‘must own’ category of lenses. This is the perfect invitation for an ongoing discussion.
  4. He Chose a Topic People Had Invested Heavily Into – the last thing I’d say about this topic is that he stumbled onto a topic for the post that readers had strong opinions about because they’d invested into the topic. Camera owners carefully research their lens purchases and put up considerable dollars to buy them. As a result they tend to feel quite strongly about their lenses and often feel the need to defend/explain their decisions.

Keep in mind that while when you write these types of posts you will almost always get a reaction from people that you need to be willing and ready to hear some strong opinions back – something that are not always easy to hear.

Lessons for Bloggers from ChatRoulette

chat-roulette.pngChatRoulette (warning: this is often NSFW) is a site that has caused a lot of buzz over the last week or so.

It’s a webcam site where you login to chat with complete strangers – you are randomly matched with a stranger and you both have the opportunity to find a new person to chat with at anytime.

People tend to quickly click, click, click through the people that they find matched with them until they find someone that they find ‘interesting’. Unless you do something a little interesting, wacky or happen to be an amazingly beautiful person – you tend to get passed over very quickly.

While much has been written about ChatRoulette and whether it is offensive, dangerous and moral – as I was spending a few minutes on it earlier in the week (where I must have been having a bad hair day because I was ignored by 99.9% of people I was matched with) it struck me that what I was watching was a visual of how people increasingly use the web.

Click, click, click.

  • They don’t stay till long – they’re always clicking
  • They are always looking for the next best thing
  • They only pause if they see something that is interesting, intriguing or completely relevant to them
  • They are ruthless
  • They are impulsive
  • They will judge what they see within a split second of arriving on a site
  • They rely upon instinct and first impressions

As bloggers – the reality is that people are making these kinds of calls about our blogs every day as they click through to them from different sources. The blank faces that you see scrolling past on ChatRoulette could be the faces of your readers – clicking onto your site, making a quick judgement about your site and what its worth and then in many cases moving on.

PS: after 3 minutes on ChatRoulette and being ignored by 100+ people I decided to experiment. I put on a clown wig, I stuck two CDs to my glasses and put on some 70′s disco music (hopefully no one took a screen shot of me doing this).

The rotation of people I was being matched with slowed down – one in 5 waved – one in 10 even chatted with me.

The take home lesson

  • do something different
  • be unique and original
  • make people look twice
  • snap people out of their ‘click click click’ stupor

Do this and you might just make people pause long enough to connect (or you could just make a fool of yourself).

Further Reading: The Power of Uniqueness – 19 Starting Points for Being a Unique Blogger.

5 Tips for Getting Readers Viewing Your Old Blog Posts

Over on Twitter last week @JapanNewbie asked me about how to get people viewing old posts on your blog once they drop off the front page. In this video I tackle the question with 5 suggestions including using:

  • Best of Sections
  • Autoresponders
  • Related Links
  • Best of Posts
  • Repost Old Content

I’d love to hear your suggestions on how you drive people back to your older blog posts?
[Read more...]

Stick Out Your Finger (Not That One!) and Create a Meaningful Blogging Experience

Guest post by Jenny McCoy

Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you’re going; you just kinda enjoy the ride.

This is true of my blogging experience.

After sharing my vision of church services optimized for screaming babies and their snoring grandparents, my drinking companion responded with glazed eyes and an outdoor voice, “You should write books or something. I’d read them.”

So I tiptoed onto the blogging scene ten months ago with a WordPress.com account, a readership of six faithful friends and like most of you, a head full of ideas.

My blog was an escape, the final axe to my quarter-life crisis.

“What am I here for? What am I meant to do? Can I defer my 10-year reunion and escape the “Most Likely to Succeed” superlative expectations?”

Blogging gave me an answer, a direction.

I am here to write.

At first, this was enough. I wrote for my table of six devoted friends and I subscribed to sites like this one to adapt my craft.

“Comment! Network!” – Demanded the experts.

But I didn’t.

Sure, I knew the benefits that awaited commenters.

Traffic. Link building. An inbox overflowing with follow-up comment notifications.

But commenting for those reasons alone seemed so futile. So boring. So fake.

And then an a-ha! post from Blogussion about building community invaded my RSS feed and things clicked.*

Within minutes, I made my first real comment and within hours the twitchy giant responded and commented on my most recent post. Josh was the first person outside of my inner circle of obligation to comment on my blog; and while his thoughts on the Cupid Shuffle were not life-changing, his quick, genuine response did force a beautiful paradigm shift in my head.

I liked it and I wanted more.

Later that week, I connected with two GenY bloggers, landing my first guest post and two new Facebook friends – one an HR specialist in Philadelphia and the other a blogger and student in Amsterdam.

Suddenly it wasn’t just me and my laptop against the world. And I’m glad, because we weren’t holding up too well anyway.

Soon, I was mesmerized by a ProBlogger guest post and I continued to comment on this insanely smart woman’s site until she broke down and asked me to start a (dwindling) t-shirt company with her and to compose my second guest post.

And so it continued. Through comments, emails and Twitter @mentions I was able to:

All of this spawned from my prompted decision to become more than a writer and a reader –to become an integral part of the blogging community.

My advice: Find relationships that matter.

Many of us dream of hosting A-List blogs. We dream of earning a respectable income by writing about the topics we know and love.** And these dreams are often derived from a larger goal: to break away from the bureaucracy our college degrees earned us and to make an existence on our own terms.

With that said, why would you make any part of this experience inauthentic?

Connect with people you like. Offer your thoughts with no expectation in return. Meet people in your niche or use web transparency to connect with people who live drastically differently lives than you. Whatever your choice, create an online existence that means something.

Take the cryptic, final words of Christopher McCandless, “Happiness is only real when shared” and apply them to your blog.

Do you have your own blogging community? Share. I’d love to hear your thoughts and I may even want to catch a ride.

*This click shared an eerie resemblance to the click that allowed the clutch-to-gas ration to finally align in my brain after nine months of sputtering failure, but it was much less expensive.

** With Mimosas and incomes large enough to pay for the breeding of a miniature elephant that can be walked on a leash and eat party peanuts. Just me?

Jenny McCoy prefers writing to climbing ladders, but does a little of both. She once brought sexy back in a High School Musical bathing suit and her addiction to Venn diagrams is rivaled only by her love for Microsoft Paint masterpieces. Take a break from your work day and check out her (admittedly) wacky blog at WorkinOnARamp.com.