This guest post is by Logan Marshall of the Free Life Project.
The hot Costa Rican sun filters through the canopy, warming my back as I walk up a small path towards the house where I am staying. I can hear the calls of howler monkeys in the distance, echoing through the rainforest like prehistoric dinosaurs.
Caught up in the magic of this place, I am barely aware of my surroundings—marveling at the exotic wonder that surrounds me. Massive, vine-covered trees erupt from the soil. Vibrant red flowers pop out against the canvas of dark green…
And then it happens.
Triggered by a flash of movement, my eyes shoot upward to see a full grown monkey charging towards me, its eyes fixed on mine as it rockets across the forest floor.
All of the sudden, the world is moving in slow motion. Panic floods my body as I realize what is happening.
Twenty meters separate us, then ten…
In an act of unrestrained desperation, I turn and sprint towards the beach, hurtling away like a man on fire.
I am running on the edge of collapse, crashing through the jungle in a frenzy of pure terror. My heart pounds in my chest. My lungs burn. I can hear the soft footsteps coming closer and closer…
That, my friends, was a (slightly dramatized) true story.
Yes a monkey actually tried to kill me. Yes I screamed like a nine-year-old girl. Yes I left Costa Rica the next day.
But while that story hopefully had you engaged and chuckling at my paranoid idiocy, you’re probably wondering what it has to do with blogging.
Well, I’ll tell you.
It’s a ridiculous example of how to “hook” an audience and engage them enough to keep reading. A model of how to look blogospheric boredom in the face and proudly give it the finger.
When it comes to blogging, people don’t want to just receive an endless stream of instructions (no matter how good they are). People want to be entertained. They want to be engaged, excited and captivated.
As David Mamet puts it:
“The audience will not tune in to watch information. You wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. No one would or will. The audience will only tune in and stay tuned in to watch drama.”
This is why the Hunger Games can attract the entire US population while the latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica rests on a dusty bookshelf next to the works of some high-browed and equally lifeless academic professor.
It’s boring. And we humans will do everything in our power to avoid the crushing grip of boredom.
Online, most blogs are cybernetic reflections of Ferris Bueller’s Economics teacher: dry, painfully boring and utterly devoid of life-enriching color.
With this in mind, it’s your job to break through the clutter and offer your readers more than just good content. Offer them an experience. An adventure. A vibrant integration of valuable information and galvanizing awesomeness.
The great “Infobesity” epidemic
There’s a disease ravaging the western world. A life-sucking affliction slowly making its way into the cracks and crevices of our lives.
No, I’m not talking about physical obesity or technological addiction, although these are both equally dangerous.
I’m talking about what John Naish calls infobesity.
Yep, infobesity. As Naish writes,
“We are so wired to gather information that often we no longer do anything useful with it. Instead of pausing to sift our intake for relevance and quality, the daily diet of prurient, profound, confusing and conflicting information gets chucked on to a mental ash-heap of things vaguely comprehended. Then we rush to try to make sense of it all … by getting more.”
There’s a ton of information out there. You know that.
Especially when it comes to the online space, we are drowning in a sea of contradictory messages: “Just learn blogging, PPC, affiliate marketing, SEO! Try this one magic formula and it will instantly transform you into the supreme master overlord of all things awesome!”
Yeah … I think I’ll pass.
With so much information fighting for our attention, people don’t really pay attention to any of it.
They ignore it. They block it all out … unless you can find a way to break through the clutter and give them an obvious reason to watch, attentively, like a seven-year-old at Sea World.
This is your mission. Let me show you how.
6 Ways to turn your blog into the next big TV drama
Okay. So you understand the importance of being interesting and the reality of information consumption.
Now it’s time to switch gears and dive headlong into the practical section of the post. The “meat and potatoes.”
While there are undoubtedly more, I’ve identified six primary ways to eradicate the “customer coma,” capture attention, and turn your blog into the next big TV drama.
Step 1. Tell stories
Stories have been around for thousands of years. Since the very creation of language. They are the purest form of human communication.
As Robert McKee puts it:
“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”
Agreed. Stories are insanely powerful.
They have the power to captivate an audience, skyrocket your email open rates, and have your readers excitedly awaiting your next piece of content like it’s the finale of Lost.
While I can’t go into all the details in this post, the essence of effective story telling can be condensed into one single sentence.
As Andrew Stanton puts it:
“The greatest story commandment is: make me care.”
Such great advice.
In every piece of content you create, every story you write, keep this at the front of your mind.
The reason why my sister (and thousands of others) will dress up like Hermione Granger for the Harry Potter finale is because they care about the characters. They desperately want them to succeed. To make Voldy pay.
With this in mind, your job is to make people care about what you have to say. To create suspense. To evoke emotion. To get them to “feel” why your story matters.
Do this, and watch your success skyrocket.
Step 2: Employ open loops
Have you ever watched Lost, 24 or another hit TV drama?
You probably have.
They’re insanely popular, captivating the minds (and destroying the work ethics) of countless people all over the world.
But why are they so addicting?
Simple: they employ a little-known suspense-building tactic that makes people have to know what happens. A trick that leaves people on the edge of their seats, counting down the days until the next episode airs.
What tactic am I talking about?
Two words: open loops.
I was first introduced to open loops by the (storytelling genius) Andre Chaperon…and they’ve made big-time difference in my business.
Here’s how they work. You’re fully captivated by a story, you’re on the edge of your seat, wanting desperately to know what happens.
The action rises.
The tension builds. And then…
The episode is over. You have to tune in next week to see what happens.
Here’s an example.
Get it? You build the action and suspense…and then leave the story unresolved. Unfinished.
This “lack of closure” causes people to return week after week because they need to see what happens. Once a “loop” is opened, it’s human nature to want to see what happens. They can’t not know what happens.
How do you apply this to your blog or online business?
Here’s what I do: instead of writing isolated blog posts or email messages, I create context around my content.
I “continue the story” from one piece of content to the next. Leave stories unresolved so that people watch their inbox like a hawk, eagerly awaiting my latest “episode.”
This is my primary “anticipation building” weapon. I leverage it in my content, emails, even guest posts.
Use it at your own risk.
Step 3: Leverage the senses
Video wins. It has the highest perceived value, crushes long-form sales letters, and captures attention far better then plain old text.
Why? Because it “leverages the senses.”
Instead of relying on mental imagining, video gives you the full experience. You can hear it, see it, “feel it,” and often read it too.
With this in mind, instead of putting out the same old posts, mix things up. Include video, audio, images, and text. Send people on what I call a “discovery adventure.”
The key is to always make things interesting and exciting. If you get bored reading your content, chances are it will tranquilize your audience.
Step 4: Create your “super alter-ego”
One of the most fundamental rules of blogging is this: people follow bloggers, not blogs.
You’ve heard this before, right? Well, it’s true.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, people do not want cookie-cutter information delivered to them from some impersonal void. They want to interaction, entertainment, and connection.
You see, there’s a saying in internet marketing that goes like this: “Make fans over friends, and friends over followers.” Simply put, people like to do business with people they empathize with, and the best way to foster this is to infuse personality into your marketing. Not a bland, neutral, “corporate” version of your personality, but a strong, exaggerated, larger-than-life version.
Your “super alter-ego.”
The key here is to take the aspects of your personality that people will connect with, and blow them up. Amplify them. Don’t be afraid to take a stand.
As D. Bnonn Tennent puts it:
“You gotta be hot! You must have more personality than you know what to do with—a personality that appeals to your ideal prospect. Then you simply write to him directly as one person to another; as if you were having a conversation.”
Step 5: Don’t be afraid to use comedy
Online, most people shy away from comedy. They say it doesn’t work. They say it turns people off.
Well, this is absolutely false. I don’t know about you, but when someone makes me laugh, I instantly like them. And I want to be around them as much as possible.
As Dan Kennedy puts it in his book “Make ‘Em Laugh and Take Their Money,”
“The ability to get those laughs, to make people relax and be uninhibited and enjoy themselves, to leave their worries behind and enter a different mind space, to feel a sense of shared, funny futility over life’s problems and puzzles, to trust you enough to open up and laugh with you…is as necessary to a performer or speaker as an audience itself. For the speaker seeking to sell, it is the golden key to the vault.”
Such great advice. And this doesn’t just apply to speakers, but also to bloggers or any other form of content creators. If you can make people laugh, you’re golden. People will like you, trust you and want to do business with you.
Don’t believe me?
Of course, you don’t have to use comedy. It is possible to persuade and connect with people without ever eliciting a chuckle (and to be honest, cliched or “cute” comedy probably won’t get you anywhere.)
But if you study and master the skill of authentic humor, people will flood to you with open arms.
Step 6: Captivate people immediately
The sixth and final strategy is to combine all of these tactics and hook people right when they land on your site. The second they arrive.
Well, there are really only two steps:
- Understand the norms within your niche. Get a good idea of what most people are doing.
- Go out of your way to violate people’s expectations and do something surprisingly different.
It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
If everyone has their blog on their homepage, create a nerdy presell page or ridiculously awesome .
The key is to make people stop dead in their tracks and think, “Wow! This is so cool! I’ve never seen anyone do this before. I should learn more.”
Do something bold. Do something epic. Do it fast.
Ultimately, you gotta realize that creating average content and posting it on an average blog is not good enough. Not any more.
The blogosphere is too darn crowded, there’s too much darn competition, and the rent is too darn high.
As Glen Allsopp puts it,
“People do not have the time to read your content. They really don’t. We’re busier than ever, have shorter attention spans and more people in our entire history own websites they want us to visit.
How many marketing bloggers do you think wrote something today hoping that you’ll read it?5,000? 50,000? I don’t know, but it’s a lot. If you did nothing but attempt to read all of the marketing content that is published today, you wouldn’t be finished this year. In other words, it’s no longer enough to be part of the top 1%. You have to be in the top 0.1%.”
In order to stand out today, you need a remarkable approach. You gotta innovate, get creative, and fascinate each and every person who visits your site.
And most importantly, you can’t let people doze off into a semi-conscious browsing state. Ever. You must hook them immediately, plaster their eyes to your content and suck them into an inescapable vortex of dramatic, suspenseful, hilariously entertaining awesome.
This is how the game is played. These are the new rules.
This is how you win.
Logan Marshall is on a mission to help aspiring entrepreneurs change the world with their message. If you’re one of them, check out the cinematic trailer to his upcoming blog.