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:
- Social media in general: The 5 Foundations of Social Media Success that No One Talks About
- Digg: 4 Ways I Compose Posts to Drive Millions of Pageviews to Blogs Through Digg
- Facebook:5 Ways I’m Using Facebook to Drive Traffic, Build Brand and Increase Reader Engagement
- LinkedIn: Top 10 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Blog Using LinkedIn
- Twitter: Top Ten Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Small Business Blog Using Twitter
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:
- Blog titles: 15 Ways to Rework Your Next Blog Title
- Opening lines: 11 Ways to Open a Post and Get Reader Engagement
- Scannable text: Writing Blog Content – Make it Scannable
- Lists: 8 Reasons Why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to your Blog
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.