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How Inspiring Your Readers Drives them to Search for Information (and Interact)

One of my mantras that I’ve shared many times when speaking, and here in posts on ProBlogger, is to build blogs that:

Interaction

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Eastop

  1. inspire
  2. inform
  3. interact.

My experience is that a blog can really come alive when you not only provide readers with information, but also give them inspiration and a place to interact with one another.

One of the first times I discovered the secret of inspirational content was on Digital Photography School (my main blog) when I started posting image collections of great images that I’d found on Flickr.

Up until this time, most of the posts on dPS would have fitted into the “informational” category of posts—they were largely tutorials and how-to type content.

These new inspirational image collection posts were simply collections of images on a theme, with little written content.

For example, here’s one of the early ones—7 Clone Shots. At the time, thise was widely linked to around the web and rose to the front pages of social bookmarking sites like Digg.

These inspirational image posts really resonated with readers, and were the kind of content people wanted to share. They drove large amounts of traffic, so I built them into dPS’s regular posting schedule.

Inspiration leads people to search for information

After a while, I discovered that besides the traffic that they drove to the site these inspiration posts had another impact: they drove people to our “information” posts.

I noticed this one day after posting an image collection of 15 Long Exposure Images. Not only did the post attract a lot of traffic, but I noticed another post on our site was also getting quite a bit of traffic that day—a post I’d written a year earlier called How to Shoot Light Trails.

This second post was not linked to from the image collection post. What I discovered was that people arriving on that post were so inspired by the images in the image collection that they were using our search tool t find information on shooting long exposures—that’s how they were finding the earlier post.

What was happening here was something I’ve seen repeated many times since—people’s inspiration was driving them to seek information.

I also realised that there were other relevant tutorials in our archives that readers inspired by that image collection might find useful, so I updated the image collection post with further relevant reading (as you can see in the screen shot below).

inspiration-information.png

I tracked the flow on to these information posts over the coming days and saw a significant clickthrough rate to these articles.

I also noticed quite a few extra subscribers to the site that week—I guess the combination of inspiration and information hit the mark.

These days I still use this same technique (in fact we’ve done these image collections many times (here are just a few more examples). Just last week I published 27 Great Panning Images [and How to Take Them].

panning-collection.png

You’ll notice in the screen shot above that I started the post with an image and then introduced the topic and included links to two previous panning tutorials. I then have a section at the bottom of the post which mentions the further reading tutorials again.

Once again, this week I can see a heightened level of activity on those older tutorials as a result of those links.

Here’s a chart showing the traffic to the Mastering Panning article mentioned in the image collection:

panning.png

That post (which was published back in 2009) usually gets 150-200 visitors a day, but this week, after I linked to it from our image collection, more than 7000 visitors viewed it in one day. The other post mentioned in the image collection saw a similar spike in traffic.

Inspiration and information leads people to interaction

The last part of this journey of discovery has been to complete the “inspire, inform, and interact” mantra. In the past few months I’d started to follow up each of these inspiration image collections with a post a few days later that invites readers to interact around that topic by doing some homework.

We run these “challenge” posts every weekend to get our readers interacting with us, but I hadn’t not previously made the collections tie in with these interactive posts.

Here’s an example of how I recently tied them together.information-inspiration-interaction.png

  1. First I led off with an image collection—25 Dreamy Images Shot Wide Open (featuring some beautiful images shot with wide open apertures).
  2. This image collection linked to information posts on the topic of Aperture, as well as other relevant tutorials.
  3. A few days later, I ran a ‘Wide Open’ Photography Challenge. This challenge linked back to the image collection as well as the tutorials (and also included a few more inspirational images as examples).

The take-up of our photography challenge that weekend was up on normal figures and it drove a heap of traffic backwards and forth around the site to the image collection and tutorials.

It also seemed to create momentum as the topic built over the week. I had a number of readers indicate that by seeing the inspirational images, reading the tutorials, and then being given an assignment to go away and do, they found themselves really driven to take what they were learning and implement it.

How could something like this work on your blog? Do you inspire, inform, and interact with your readers? I’m intrigued to hear if you use a similar strategy.

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. Thought provoking post Darren.
    I think at the end of the day, it’s about knowing the audience and catering their needs.

    People prefer to read content that provides educational value. The level of that educational value may vary depending on the your audience, someone in their mid-career may derive more value vs. a CEO of a company. They should derive some value nonetheless.

    Creating content that’s engaging is also important. This could mean creating or curating content that’s personalized to your audience to maintain a high-level of engagement with each communication. Now, you might be able to create content that has a broad sense of appeal from copywriters to marketing managers. But, a lot of times you may have to segment that content based on discipline, title, industry vertical, preferences etc.

    • Sure you should know your audience well and what they are really looking for. But once you know them you can write posts where you can give them information that they need. You can inspire them by giving them examples of what you have done or what you are doing. You can interact with them by pushing them to work on their own projects at the same time. I believe these 3 guidelines can be used in any niche you are in.

  2. Such a great angle to look at in content marketing and *sort of* common sense if we start to look at the humans (and their human nature), we are marketing too. The proof is in the pudding you provided! Sharing this right now :-)

  3. Great post, Darren! I like the aspect of throwing in a challenge. I’ve never thought of that before. I’ll have to try it out sometime.

  4. John says:

    Finding ways to inspire your audience to act is one of the hardest, but most important aspects of running a good blog. I really admire what you’ve done with this idea on DPS and I myself have been one of those people who have flocked from your inspirational image set to the various how-to posts on the site.

    I’ve always wondered – Do you get permission from the photographer prior to using the image as an inspiring photograph or do you simply use it seeing as though it is already in a public place (Flickr) and you’re linking back to the main image anyway.

    I mean – I think most anyone would be honored to be featured on a post about inspiring photographs on a site with the audience that DPS has – but I was just curious as to if there was any etiquette involved before you create these sets of images. And if you do ask – have you ever been turned down?

  5. Thanks Darren for sharing your wisdom. But the outcome from such ‘inspirational’ posts will depend on the niche. When it’s about a hobby or a skill, then people are more inclined to try that and also to try similar techniques. Some blogs like mine, which are information oriented, find it difficult to take such an approach. But it is always nice to interact with the readers.

  6. J. Delancy says:

    I’m still in the process of building up my pillar content but I certainly hope that my blog is inspiring other people. Several of my posts have links to other articles but my post on “How to Gain Ten Pounds in Four Weeks” is the one that seem to hit the mark of informing, inspiring and interaction.
    I’d really like to learn what about that post is causing people to click its links but until then I’ll just try to follow the formulae that caused me write it.

  7. This reminds me why I love coming back here every day!

    I can really see how implementing this process every so often can really produce some great results! I am definitely going to see how I can incorporate this into my own blog and see what kind of results I get!

    Thanks a bunch!
    -Gabe

  8. Ehsan Ullah says:

    Hey Darren,

    I think you only described the strategy for photography blog, If you write a similar post in which you give teach us the same strategy with examples of marketing blog or a blog related to blogging.

    • Max Minzer says:

      Ehsan, same can be applied for any topic and field.
      I need to implement this myself but already have some ideas how to do it with consulting field.

  9. Jason Miller says:

    Hi Darren,

    Really fantastic post. I think that the idea of a blog inspiring an audience is sometimes forgotten in today’s attention economy. While photos can certainly inspire, the trend of moving towards visual content in general can really play into this mantra. Going to give this one a try for sure.

    Jason Miller – Marketo

    PS: Great post on aperture by the way. I shoot concert photography in my spare time and live by the rule of shooting wide open.

  10. Kjell says:

    Thanks Darren for sharing your wisdom and experience. I’ve purchased some of your books and white papers but have yet to get started on my own blog. My biggest challenge is overcoming the notion of “I have nothing important to say or share.” Seems silly to say and write, but there is so much good and bad information on so many topics. What more of value can be added? When I do, and I will, I’ll use this post to create the building blocks to build an audience !

  11. Hi Darren,

    Move your readers into action. Sell a dream. Powerful words and striking images can do this quite easily, really. Power advice.

    I post pics of my current 16 month holiday in Southeast Asia. Bali, Phuket, and now Hoi An, Vietnam, among other stops. People love beach pics. Inspiring, because traveling to such exotic locales inspires others to do the same.

    Use action verbs and colorful adjectives. Inspire people to learn more about you, what you do, and how you can prosper them. Keep emotional push-buttons in place, and use on each post, to grow your readership and calls to action taken.

    Thanks Darren!

    Ryan

  12. Stanley Rao says:

    Good post . Businesses are good when they have challenges to face

  13. Ayaz says:

    Excellent post and you have mentioned great 3 points and certainly creating challenges for yourself always been a healthy contest and that’s how can good can come out of yourself.

    Thanks for sharing wealthy information. :-)

  14. Saif says:

    Great work Darren,

    You have explained such an awesome post to convert your readers into sales. When readers start interacting with you using blog comments then the chances are more that you can convert those readers into sales as well.

    Thank you for your great post.

    Saif

  15. Wade says:

    Being inspirational is a great way to get new readers. Not only looking to make money from them, but give them something to think about when they come to your site. Instead of having to worry about whether or not they will be faced with an ad or a place to get hooked up on someone’s list, having a great informational post that inspires is a great way to make new friends AND faithful readers.

    I have seen the effect of internet marketing and the negative effect that it has had on a lot of people. Giving a person a place that they can come, relax, and have fun is a powerful tool!

  16. Wes says:

    Hi Darren,
    I haven’t done a very good job of engaging our subscribers at this point. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, which is probably why I spend so much time doing SEO.

    However, recently I asked one of our readers to turn one of their comments into a blog post, which ended up being one of our most linked to and engaging articles. It was inspirational because it talked about how defeated he felt after his site was obliterated by a Google Panda update, but instead of giving up, he dove in and got to work. After about a year of total dedication, his website completely recover and then some!

  17. K Bharath says:

    Inspired by the Information in the above article. here after i will try to Inspire my readers and also provide enough information on the topic.