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Setting the Hook: Fishing for New Readers with Social Media Lures

This guest post is by Ben Harack of the Vision of Earth project.

Regarding readers as fish, and bloggers as fisherman, might seem strange. Bear with me as I show you part of why I like the idea of blogging as being similar to fishing.

Those of you who are familiar with fishing know that getting the fish to bite the lure is only the first step of the process. A good yank from your end is often advisable in order to “set the hook”, ensuring that the fish will be less likely to escape.

A new reader to your page doesn’t have the hook set yet, in fact, they might not have bit at all. They might just be moving closer, perhaps to sniff the lure.

Modern media speed and information overload has caused readers to be more cautious with the way they spend their time reading or browsing. The fish might just swim in a bit closer to see if the lure looks tasty. If the lure looks dead or unappetizing the fish will likely swim on to find something more interesting.

Lure readers in

One of the major topics on ProBlogger lately has been social media. While search engines have been very important in the development of the Internet, social media has led a revolution in how we interact with content.

I feel that the onslaught of social media has exacerbated the short attention spans of Internet readers. Social media information tends to come in small bites. I feel that this evidenced by the naturally short nature of Facebook statuses, tweets, and news headlines on Digg, Reddit, and others.

How is it best to lure people in with social media? This website is absolutely full of tips on this subject. To capture the power of social media, I can honestly recommend reading about:

In a recent post about the small size of tweets, Darren raised the idea of a possible swing towards long-form content. From his post, and my own experience in the area, I have concluded that social media tends to facilitate the creation of connectivity, conversation, and community around content of value.

For bloggers, the hub of our content tends to be our blogs and websites. Social media can be regarded to some extent as the cloud of human interaction around a website. Darren illustrates this well in his post Home Bases and Outposts – How I use Social Media in My Blogging.

It is important to note that social media is not just another outlet for your standard content. If you only use it to link directly back to your blog, you are missing out on most of its potential. Social media is primarily a conversation created around you and by you. Without your interaction, conversations will still happen, but they will progress without you being involved. A megaphone isn’t a good conversation partner. To create a strong following, you need to connect with the people who are interested in what you do.

In the world of social media, quality of communication is key. Being restricted to about 30 words per unit of communication means you have to make each one count. With practice and care, it is possible to show that brevity does not preclude quality. It is possible to convey great meaning with even a single tweet.

We live in the age of the sound bite, the slogan, and the catch-phrase. In order to tame the beast of social media, we need to master its language.

Set the hook

You can’t force people to read what is on your page, but you can certainly encourage them. You can’t force them to come back, but you can provide some good reasons why they might choose to.

The specific techniques that I try to use are:

These tools cater to the tendencies of Internet readers. The intent is to grab their attention so that they will actually consume your content more fully rather than scanning it.

It is hard to set a dull hook. Sharpen your hook by making your website easier to navigate. Highlight your social media connections, and provide clearly visible ways for people to subscribe to your content or newsletter. Provide interactive elements such as contests and polls to generate additional interest.

I experimented recently with the creation of my own blog carnival called the Renewable Energy Review. Unfortunately as I found out, there is extremely little in the way of quality writing being pushed around the blogosphere on this topic. Our standards at Vision of Earth are high enough that only one article submitted thus far merited a link from us. This might sound harsh, but we have established standards of editing and fact-checking that are not matched outside of professional periodicals.

So what did I do? My team and I simply transitioned into creating a high-quality periodical of our own. Even with the publication so early in its life, we have noticed that it has already begun to draw some substantial interest. As a fledgling volunteer project/blog, we have been happy with the results.

More commonly, bloggers will write a series of posts on a topic to generate interest and subscribers. When people like what you write, and know that you will have more of it soon, they have an incentive to come back. All of the techniques for setting the hook eventually depend on you having content that is of value to readers to such an extent that they will come back again to experience more of it.

Eat your readers

Analogy taken too far? I think not!

Your readers consume your content, but you are the one who is attempting to make a living off them. If you are a Professional Blogger, the number and quality of your relationships with your readers are what literally put the food on your table.

Try to understand your readers and cultivate respect for them. Understand, because you may be fishing with the wrong lures or in the wrong part of the lake. Respect, because a genuine conversation requires some degree of shared positive regard.

Ben Harack is the leader of the Vision of Earth project, which attempts to study the key challenges facing society today. They publish on topics as wide-ranging as nuclear energy, ending poverty, and deliberate social change.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the posts. I really enjoy posts with analogies like this, they deliver quality content in an easily digestable format.

    • dotCOMreport says:

      Like John said, really digestible post. Great analogy and it was not taken too far or rather, just far enough to pass across the message. Thanks!

  2. Ishan says:

    What a great analogy! Hats off to you.

    As you said, having right lure at right place is essential for getting new readers. However, instead of eating the readers, I believe that we have to feed them. I believe that as bloggers, we are not catching fish for eating, but to keep them in an aquarium where we feed them with healthy food(great content), keep them healthy(keep them hooked to blog as loyal readers) and show them to more fish so that more fish comes to aquarium and you earn more by showing how many fish you have!(A bit John Chowish, but that’s how it works for most of us!) ;)

  3. David Perdew says:

    These are some great tips on how to liven up your content, be it through blogging or social media. These are refined arts, and they require alot of patience to be most effective. Your suggestions show how important it is to make your content interesting, something your readers can sink their teeth into. Thanks for the post.

  4. Awesome Post!… Twitter is becoming massive for traffic generation!…

    Take it easy!,

    :]

  5. Hi Ben,
    The cool thing I like about social media is the short posts, leading to great content. Your tweets or FB posts are the lure, and the blog content is the food. keep feeding your readers and they will tell their fishy friends and so on.
    140 characters isn’t much, get it right and there will be a lot of fish swimming into your pond or lake.
    Pete

  6. Drew says:

    It’s tough going, but these tips will work if they’re done right, though lots of different methods exists for setting a hook and luring readers. I think the best bet is to try everything and hope for the best. :D

  7. One note on the ending of your excellent article: It’s not just about shared respect. You also need to listen to your readers. We have two ears and one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we talk!

  8. Great post, thanks for the links to the other articles going to have a good read through them.

  9. Hey Ben,
    Your Knowledge regarding Social Bookmarking sites, and your idea is really unique and interesting to read-on.!
    Well im just Pleblogger landed on the Pro-blogger, hopes your shared knowledge will help me to achieve my dream…
    loved your article.

  10. kevin blumer says:

    sosial media is ok for attracting people to your blog but i think looking for people in small groups works a little bit it would be intresting to know hown many fish there are out there

  11. Awesome Post!

    I find myself writing too much sometimes and it being hard to digest all at once. Making it scannable is definitely good.

    I think I have the headlines down though :)

    Thanks for the post!

    Gabriel

  12. Luke says:

    Thanks for your useful tips.The SEO has been a big question I’m looking for more effective ways.So many people want to study about it,I think one can write the articles with their own experience will be better.

  13. Hey Ben,

    Nicely put, I like the fishing analogy.

    Another relevant parable is the on of the hunter and farmer. If you create a tightly knit, higly qualified audience that naturally gravitates and stays with you then then you can become a farmer, nurturing and maintaining your crops, to later harvest the rewards.
    In comparison, the hunter spends a lot of time chasing after the targeted audience, after the ‘kill’ he has to start the hunt over again.

    bLAZE yOUR tRAIL

  14. Ben Harack says:

    I am glad that people are enjoying the fishing analogy. I had my doubts….:P

  15. Another great post on this fantastic blog. Ive learnt so much over the years from frequently dropping back to this blog for fresh ideas, keep up the good work.

  16. Okay, I took the bait, even signed up for your newsletter. But have to admit, this is overwhelming.

  17. Shaun says:

    Thank you for such great tips. It gave me great tips to follow through on. I have a few posts too far and I would like to ask for feedbacks on my start. They are sequential by way of introductory posts. I know that I have not been taught in any coaching programs. But The guides of Yaro’s EJ, Gideon’s roadmap and Darren’s Problogger helped me in making and establishing of my blog.
    http://deksamblogger.blogspot.com
    Thanks again.

    • Ben Harack says:

      My first impressions of your site Shaun are that it is quite heavily advertised and doesn’t display much content above the fold. I recommend you change that design. Small amounts of effective advertising or high quality affiliate links are likely to serve you better than blasting readers with all kinds of blinking ads on the page. I find infolinks bothersome, but I am not sure what other people think. You legal blog protection text should probably be moved elsewhere, makes your blog seem a bit harsh at first glance. If you want more tips, subscribe to problogger and read the archives :P

  18. cheska says:

    Another one of your intersting posts. I really enjoy your articles. It’s not just a way of learning but I find it fun to read too. I agree on what you said about respecting your readers. Perfect way of luring your readers is really knowing your readers first. If you know them, then it would be easy to write something that will interest them. :)

  19. Excellent work, Ben. I don’t fish, like, ever, but I can definitely get a sense of what you are talking about here.
    I guess, ultimately, we do need to think about how we set our lures, even which lures we choose, and why.
    Once we’ve done our work and our content is ready to hit the virtual community, that’s when we can focus on the details of making it more appetizing through tasty copy and smart marketing, aka “smarketing”;)
    Thanks for your contribution!

    Peter